Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Revised 'Egidius' translation


Egidius, where shall I find thee?
I long for thee, dear friend of mine.
Thou metst with death, to life consigned me.

Sweet company we had and fine,
Yet one must die and the other pine.
Now at the throne mayst thou enshrined be,
There as a brightest sun to shine,
With bliss that’s unalloyed assigned thee.

Egidius, where shall I find thee?
I long for thee, dear friend of mine.
Thou metst with death, to life consigned me.

Now pray for me: thy death’s behind thee,
I to this harsh world must resign.
Keep my place by thee safe, I mind thee:
I still must sing my song’s each line.
Yet unto death all lives incline.

Egidius, where shall I find thee?
I long for thee, dear friend of mine.
Thou metst with death, to life consigned me.

Monday, 15 September 2014

One of the most famous Norwegian ballads 'Roland og Magnus kongen'

Roland and Charlemagne


“Six of my jarls at home shall bide and guard the gold so fair, –
Six more shall hie to heathen lands and test their cold steel there.
- Off they then rode from Frankish lands on horses freshly saddled,
blew the horn called Oliphant, at Roncevaux did battle.

They hoisted up their silken sail until it topped the mast,
Then off they sailed to heathen lands till fourteen days had passed.

Oars and anchors caught at last upon the silver sand:
Roland, loyal kinsman of the king, was first to set foot on land.


The blue-faced Moorish army did fill both mountain and dale:
“Warriors from Christian lands are they, with helmets like vermeil!”

The king of all the Blackamoors, who had seemingly lived long:
“The Christians who our taxes seized would seem a fearful throng.

Can we not get our taxes back from these who fear no fray,
we shall advance to Roncevaux and fight for two or three days!”


Forward the Moorish hordes all surged, they blotted out the sun;
then did Roland’s comrades fear, and begged him sound his horn.

Roland replied to them with wrath, his mouth was flecked with foam:
“I shall hew such mighty blows, they’ll be known till doomsday comes!”

They battled out at Roncevaux, they fought for two or three days;
the heathens fell before Roland’s sword that scythe-like all did slay.

They battled out at Roncevaux, and all were full of wrath.
the heathens fell before Roland’s sword like snow drifts o’er the heath.


Forward the Moorish hordes all surged, they blotted out the sun;
then did Roland’s comrades fear, and begged him sound his horn.

Roland angrily replied, mouth dripping with blood and foam:
“I shall hew such mighty blows, they’ll be known till doomsday comes!”

They battled out at Roncevaux, blood in rivers did flow;
the horses could not tread the ground, on corpses they must go.

They battled out at Roncevaux, their weary bodies dulled,
the sun no longer could shine clear for the haze of human blood.


Forward the Moorish hordes all surged, they blotted out the sun, –
and all of Roland’s comrades feared, and begged him sound his horn

He placed the horn to bloodied lips and blew with all his might;
o’er mountain and heath the sound was borne, crags and fields it did blight.

He placed the horn to bloodied lips, in wrath he let it bray:
then crofts and farms began to shake that lay nine days’ journey away.

Roland, loyal kinsman to the king, he blew the golden horn:
it split the walls and marble stone and Charlemagne’s tower was shorn.

Forward the horn’s clear call did surge, in sword sheaths it did sound –
Roland blew till his eyes stood out, for they threatened to bring him down.

Charlemagne, the mighty king, then gave a cry forlorn:
“What can it be that ails my man? For now I hear his horn!”


More haste made Charlemagne the king than he’d e’er done before:
warrior Roland he lay dead, clutched in his hand his sword.

“In twos now all of you go out, let all your peers partake,
see if they from Roland’s hand the Bane of Dwarfs can take!”

Back again the men soon came, but not as they had planned:
“We all have failed the Bane of Dwarfs to wrest from Roland’s hand.”

Forward then stepped king Charlemagne, by sorrow he was gripped:
Roland let the sword slip free, as ’twere a royal gift.

Forward then stepped king Charlemagne, with longing he was racked:
Roland let the sword slip free, as if ’twere handed back.


Homeward then journeyed Charlemagne. From grief all bowed their heads –
the ship was laden with silver and gold, the heathens all were dead.

“Why sit you here so tired and wan? drunken yet listless all?
Have you been lying sick abed, or did brave young warriors fall?

“No need to wonder, my fair queen, if we have grounds to grieve:
Roland, loyal kinsman, is no more, brave men this life did leave.”
- Off they then rode from Frankish lands on horses freshly saddled,
blew the horn called Oliphant, at Roncevaux did battle.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Caxton was translating the 1479 version 'Die Hystorie van Reynaert die Vos' - but why has Caxton omitted the badger?

HEt was omtrent pinxteren also dattet wout dan gaerne lustelic gestelt plech te wesen. van loueren bloesseme bloemen wel rukende ende mede van voghelen ghesanghe Alsoe dat dye edel coninck van allen dieren woude des pinxtere dages te stade een eerlic hof houden dat hi ouer al sijn lant te weten dede Ende liet dat mit neerste gebieden om een yegelic dier al daer te comen Also dat alle die dyeren groot ende cleyne te houe quamen Sonder reynaert die vos. want hij bekende hem seluen broekich aen menighen dyeren dye daer wesen souden Alsoe dat hi dat niet waghen en dorste daer te comen Doe die coninc aldus alle sijn hof versament hadde doe en was daer nyemant dan alleen die das. hi en had ouer reynaert swaerlijc te claghen

And here is Caxton's English version of 1481. Reynard the Fox was one of the first printed books in English


How the Lion, King of all Beasts, sent out his commandments that all Beasts should come to his feast and Court.

IT was about the time of Pentecost or Whitsuntide, that the woods commonly be lusty and gladsome, and the trees clad with leaves and blossoms, and the ground with herbs and flowers sweet smelling, and also the fowls and birds singing melodiously in their harmony, that the Lion, the noble King of all Beasts, would in the holy days of this feast hold an open Court at state; which he did to know over all in his land, and commanded by straight commissions and commandments that every Beast should come thither, in such wise that all the Beasts great and small came to the Court save Reynart the Fox: for he knew himself faulty and guilty in many things ag ainst many Beasts that thither should comen, that he durst not adventure to go thither. When the King of all Beasts had assembled all his Court, there was none of them all but that he had complained sore on Reynart the Fox.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The start of the Flemish medieval beast epic 'Vanden vos Reynaerde'.

Willem, who did Madoc write,
often till very late at night,
was so disgruntled by the thought
that Reynard’s deeds remained unwrought
in our mother tongue to date
(for Aernout found the task too great)
that from French accounts he gleaned
what of Reynard’s life he weened
in our language folk might read.
This mighty task we wish godspeed! [...]

Whitsuntide had clothed in green
both shrub and wood, a perfect scene
for King Nobel’s summoned court
to which all subjects had to report,
it was, he thought, the perfect chance,
throughout his kingdom to enhance
his glory and his royal fame.
The animals to his court then came
great and small in a single line,
but of Reynard – not a sign.
He’d at court done so much wrong
that he was loath to come along.
He had everything to fear
and his guilt was all too clear,
so he shunned the royal court
where his standing was as nought.
When the assembly was complete
all called Reynard an evil cheat,
except for the badger, and did crave
justice for the red-bearded knave.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A poem by the Swedish writer Werner Aspenström (1918-1997)

Spelman och upptecknare

Den gamle spelmannen kunde inte spela längre,
endast tralla.
Den gamle tandlöse spelmannen kunde inte tralla längre,
endat väsa.
I väsandet hördes trallen,
i trallen stråkdragen,
i stråkdragen de otämjda forsarna.
Rätt nöjd cyklade upptecknaren hemåt
med fem mil av Västerdalälven i portföljen.

Fiddler and compiler

The old fiddler could no longer play,
only sing the tunes.
The old toothless fiddler could no longer sing,
only hiss the tunes.
In the hissing the singing was audible,
in the singing the bow-strokes,
in the bow-strokes the untamed rapids.
Quite content the compiler cycled homewards
with thirty miles of Västerdal river in his briefcase.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A Danish translation of a poem by Gerrit Kouwenaar 'alleen in de tuin'

alene i haven

Man sidder med sine skyggebilleder i haven, skumringen
flagrer let, der ånder af gamle efterladne spørgsmål
man tier sig sammen, ligner slående sin næste
det er senere, uhørligt som tid

man ville stille dette fortættede intet ophæve
denne langsomme cirkel, ville viske dette løse
øjebliks blindgyde ud i flængende silke, ufattelige
famlende fødder der passerer på gruset 

så varer man et stykke tid, timeglas, glubske bøger
sultende fødes livsfare, så opfinder det
døende lys sig selv og man går, man går
ind i huset, lydig, man forhører mørket

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A feast of Dèr Mouw

To see 72 poems by him in translation (draft version), go to here.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A topical Dèr Mouw poem

’t Is eind augustus, zondag. – Blauwig waas
om verre dennen in laat middaguur;
naar ’t glooiend stoppelveld, vol sprietjes vuur,
uit stofwolkjes van grindweg loopt een haas.

En ouërwets bolronde dahlia’s
gloeien, mooi evenwijdig met de muur
van ’t boerenhuis; laag tjispren om de schuur
zwaluwen, over ’t pad langs ’t ijzergaas.

Nog rul van zaterdagse hark is ’t zand;
voetstappen staan voorzichtig langs de rand;

een schaduwpunt van halfgeel bonenblad
ligt hier en daar in ’t lijnennet op ’t pad;

door ’t dichte raam komt in gedempte vlagen
eenvoudig orgelspel van ‘Uren, dagen –.’

It’s end of August, Sunday. – Blue-hazed air
round distant pine trees in late afternoon;
toward glowing stubblefield, now fiery-plumed,
from grit-path dust clouds flees a scuttling hare.

Old-fashioned dahlias, like giant taws,
glow the entire length of the farmhouse wall
in perfect line; and chittering swallows call
around the barn, across the path’s wire-gauze.

The sand’s still loose from Saturday’s keen rake;
edged with the cautious footsteps that folks take;

a shadow-point of bean-leaf now quite spare
lies in the path’s traced furrows here and there;

in muffled gusts through the closed window come
fleeting strains played on a harmonium.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A poem by the Dutch writer and painter Hendrik de Vries (1896-1989)

Mijn broer

Mijn broer, gij leedt
Een einde, waar geen mens van weet.
Vaak ligt gij naast mij, vaag, en ik
Begrijp het slecht, en tast en schrik.

De weg met iepen liept gij langs.
De vogels riepen laat. Iets bangs
Vervolgde ons beiden. Toch woudt gij
Alleen gaan door de woestenij.

Wij sliepen deze nacht weer saam.
Uw hart sloeg naast mij. ‘k Sprak uw naam
En vroeg, waarheen gij gingt.
Het antwoord was:

'Te vreselijk om zich in te verdiepen,
Zie: ’t gras
Ligt weder dicht met iepen

Brother of mine

My brother, your life’s close
Is something of which no one knows.
You often lie beside me, vague yet near –
I hardly grasp, and grope and start with fear.

You chose to walk along the elm-lined road.
The birds sang late. And something fearful strode
Behind the two of us. Yet you made known
You wished to cross the wilderness alone.

Last night the bed we slept in was the same.
Your heart beat next to mine. I spoke your name
And asked what was in sight.
The answer was:

‘Too terrible to venture to explain:
The grass
Is fringed with elms again,
Packed tight.’

For the original and an analysis, go to here