Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jacobus Revius: 'Antichrist' (1630)


    Should e’er the shaggy snow not coat the Alps so high,
Should e’er the summer’s warmth be turned to shiv’ring cold,
Should e’er the sky above from earth its dew withhold,
Should e’er all living beasts the Oceans lick quite dry,
    Should e’er the far North Pole as lodestone fail to attract,
Should e’er the grey-furred wolf with timid sheep keep faith,
Should e’er maid turn to man, or man with maid change place,
Should e’er the earth stretch round the heavens’ endless tract,
    Should e’er the sun and moon their orbits fixed exchange,
Should e’er a human hand high heaven’s hand outrange,
Should e’er the Seraphim their Maker fail to trust,
    Should e’er the Lord’s great might and goodness helpless lie,
Should e’er God’s Son once more upon the cruel cross die,
Then will the Antichrist God’s children grind to dust.

 To see the original poem, go to here.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Marjoleine de Vos: 'Wer jetzt kein Haus hat' in English translation


Begraven worden ergens, nu vooruit
ik weet wel waar het fluitekruid met luchtig kant
het voorjaar vult. Maar hoe te sterven eerst
hoe weten waar het oog graag rust
waar alles zo dat je besluiten kunt
om weg te gaan.

Is dat je leven fout geleefd werd
af te zien aan geen vertrouwde plaats
die voorbestemd lijkt voor vaarwel?
Als je een huis gebouwd had, dan wist je 't wel.


To be buried somewhere, well okay
I know well where cow parsley with its airy lace
now fills the spring. But how to die means you first
need to know where the eye would rest
where all is right for you to then decide
to take your leave.

Is the proof your life's been lived wrongly
the lack of any familiar place
that seemed predestined for farewell?
Had you but built a house, you would know full well.

The title comes from a Rilke poem. To see it in German and English, go to here

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Inger Hagerup: 'Vi holder livet' in English translation


Vi holder livet i en knyttet hånd.
Vårt hjerte må bestandig ha det sånn.

Det tåler gjerne spott og overlast
når bare det får holde noe fast.

En mann, et barn, en drøm skal være vår
og evigheten måles ut i år.

For i vår gåtefulle, blinde angst
blir alle ting erobring eller fangst.

Vi bærer skrekken med oss natt og dag,
den bleke skrekk for hjertets nederlag.


Life with a clenched fist we hold onto tight.
For every heart this is a constant plight.

It copes with mockery and overload
as long as it has something firm to hold.

For husband, child or dream we persevere –
eternity’s but measured year by year.

For out of our quite blind and baffling fear
all’s viewed as catch and conquest crystal clear.

Our dread we bear within us night and day
the pale dread of our heart as helpless prey.

M. Nijhoff: 'Con sordino' in English translation

Con sordino

She said to me: ‘You are a prince in bed.’
Upon the frozen pane ice flowers were sprayed.
Nestling between cools sheets as if unmade,
Our body by fatigue now lay outspread.

After this snow the whole world’s born anew
And this night over I’m once more a child.
Be kind to my simplicity whose mild
Voice speaks like medieval paintings do.

See behind pines the castle turrets stand,
And like a slanting beam on the horizon
The sunlight breaking over pious land!

A knight through meadows canters with his love:
He whistles to his dogs, she sees the falcon
Now risen from her gauntlet soar above.

To see the original poem, go to here

Friday, 15 March 2019

M. Nijhoff: 'Impasse' in English translation


Wij stonden in de keuken, zij en ik.
Ik dacht al dagen lang: vraag het vandaag.
Maar omdat ik mij schaamde voor mijn vraag
wachtte ik het onbewaakte ogenblik.

Maar nu, haar bezig ziend in haar bedrijf,
en de kans hebbend die ik hebben wou
dat zij onvoorbereid antwoorden zou,
vroeg ik: waarover wil je dat ik schrijf?

Juist vangt de fluitketel te fluiten aan,
haar hullend in een wolk die opwaarts schiet
naar de glycine door het tuimelraam.

Dan antwoordt zij, terwijl zij langzaamaan
druppelend water op de koffie giet
en zich de geur verbreidt: ik weet het niet.


We stood there in the kitchen, she and I.
I’d had the thought for days: ask her today.
Ashamed to ask, I waited for the stray
unguarded moment, though, to make my try.

But seeing her now busy at her tasks
and realising that I had the chance
she’d answer without thinking in advance,
What would you have me write about? I asked.

Just then the whistling kettle starts to blow,
concealing her in rushing steam that soars
through slanting window up to purple rain.

And she replies, while drop by drop she pours
the boiling water on the coffee grains
and the aroma spreads out: I don’t know.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

HCA: 'Klods Hans' in English translation

Numskull Jack

Down in the country there was an old farm, and on it lived an old squire who had two sons that were too clever by half – they wanted to propose to the king’s daughter and were quite prepared to do so because she had let it be known that she would take as her husband the man best able to state his case.
The two of them spent eight days preparing – that was the most they could spare for it – but it was also more than enough as they had lots of knowledge in advance, which is always useful. The one knew the whole Latin dictionary by heart as well as the city’s newpaper for the past three years, both forwards and backwards; the other was familiar with all the guild articles and what he felt every guildmaster needed to know to converse about government matters, and furthermore he knew how to embroider braces, for he was sensitive and adroit with his fingers.
‘I’ll get the king’s daughter!’ both of them said, and their father gave each of them a fine horse: the one who knew the dictionary and the newspapers got a jet-black horse, and the one who knew all about guildmasters and embroidery got a milk-white horse, and then they smeared the corners of their mouths with cod liver oil to make them more supple. All the servants were down in the courtyard to see them mount their steeds; and at that very moment the third brother came along – for there were three of them, although nobody really thought of him as a brother, for he was not nearly as clever as the other two, who simply referred to him as Numskull Jack.
‘Where are you off to, seeing you’re all in your Sunday best?’ he asked.
‘To court to woo the king’s daughter! Haven’t you heard what’s being proclaimed all over the country to the beating of the drum?!’ and then they told him.
‘Gracious me, then I must come too!’ Numskull Jack said, and his brothers laughed at him and rode off.
‘Father, let me have a horse!’ Numskull Jack shouted. ‘I feel such an urge to get married. If she takes me, she takes me! and if she doesn’t, I’ll take her even so!’
‘Stuff and nonsense!’ his father said. ‘You’ll not be getting a horse from me. You can’t even speak! no, your brothers, they’re proper city gents!’
‘If I can’t have a horse,’ Numskull Jack said, ‘then I’ll take the billy goat – he’s mine and he can easily carry me!’ and he sat himself astride the billy goat, dug his heels into its ribs and set off down the highway. Wheee! off they shot. ‘Here I come!’ said Numskull Jack, singing so loud he made the skies ring.
But the brothers rode quietly on ahead, not saying a word, for they had to think of all the bright ideas they would come up with, for everything had to be so ingeniously planned!
‘Tally ho!’ Numskull Jack shouted, ‘here I come! Just look at what I’ve found on the highway!’ and he showed them a dead crow he had found!
‘Numskull!’ they said. ‘What do you want thatfor?’
‘Give it to the king’s daughter as a present!’
‘Yes, just you do that!’, they said, laughed and rode on.
‘Tally ho! here I come! Just look at what I’ve found now – it’s not every day you find such a thing on the highway!’
And the brothers turned round again to see what it was. ‘Numskull!’ they said, ‘that’s an old wooden clog and the upper’s missing! Is the king’s daughter to have thattoo?’
‘Yes, she is!’ Numskull Jack said; and the brothers laughed and rode on and were soon far ahead.
‘Tally ho! here I come!’ Numskull Jack shouted; ‘No, it’s getting odder and odder! tallyho! it’s simply amazing!’
‘What have you found now?’ the brothers said.
‘Oh!’ Numskull Jack said, ‘there are no words for it! how glad she’ll be, the king’s daughter!’
‘Ugh!’ the brothers said, ‘but that’s mud that’s been thrown up from the ditch!’
‘Yes, exactly!’ Numskull Jack said, ‘and it’s the very finest sort – it slips through your fingers!’ and then he stuffed his pocket with it.
But his brothers rode on as fast as they could, and ended up a whole hour ahead and stopped at the city gate, and there the suitors were given a number as they arrived, and placed in a queue in ranks of six and packed so tight that they couldn’t move their arms, and that was a good thing, because otherwise they would have ripped up each other’s backs, simply because they were crammed the one in front of the other.
Everyone else in the land was standing round the castle, close up to the windows so they could see the king’s daughter receive the suitors, and as soon as one of them came into the room, his eloquence failed him completely.
‘No good!’ the king’s daughter said. ‘Off with him!’
Now the brother, the one who knew the dictionary, came in, but standing in the queue had made him completely forget everything, and the floor creaked and the ceiling was of mirror glass, so he saw himself upside-down, and at each window there stood three clerks and a guildmaster, and each of them wrote down all that was said, so it could at once be put in the newspaper and sold for twopence on the corner. It was frightful, and what’s more they had heated the stove so much that the drum had turned red!
‘It’s terribly hot in here!’ the suitor said.
‘That’s because my father’s roasting cockerels today!’ the king’s daughter said.
‘Oooh!’ there he stood, not the speech he had been expecting; he didn’t have a single word in his head, for he would have liked to have said something witty. Oooh!’
‘No good!’ the king’s daughter said. ‘Off with him!’ and he had to leave. Now the other brother came in.
‘Terrible heat in here!’ he said.
‘Yes, we roasted cockerels today!’ the king’s daughter said.
‘Beg your – what?’ he said, and all the clerks wrote Beg your – what!
‘No good!’ the king’s daughter said. ‘Off with him!’
Now Numskull Jack came in, riding on his billy goat straight into the room. ‘Red-hot in here!’ he said.
‘That’s because I’m roasting cockerels!’ the king’s daughter said.
‘That’s great!’ Numskull Jack said, ‘then I suppose I can get my crow roasted too?’
‘Certainly you can!’ the king’s daughter said, ‘but have you got anything to roast it in, for I’ve no pots and pans!’
‘But I have,’ Numskull Jack said. ‘Here’s a cooking utensil complete with a tin hook!’ and he brought out the wooden clog and placed the crow in the middle of it.
‘There’s enough for a whole meal!’ the king’s daughter said, ‘but what shall we do for the sauce?’
‘I’ve got that in my pocket!’ Numskull Jack said. ‘I’ve got so much I can even spill some!’ and he poured a little mud from his pocket.
‘That I like!’ the king’s daughter said. ‘You’ve an answer for everything and a tongue in your head and I want you for my husband! But do you realise that every word we say and have said is being written down and will appear in the newspaper tomorrow! at every window you can see three clerks and a guildmaster standing, and the guildmaster’s the worst of the lot – he doesn’t understand anything!’ and she said this to try and frighten him. And all the clerks whinnied and made ink blots on the floor.
‘So these are the fine gentlemen!’ Numskull Jack said, ‘then I’d better give the guildmaster the best of the lot!’ and he turned out his pockets and flung the mud in his face.
‘Oh, well done!’ the king’s daughter said, ‘I couldn’t have done that! but I’m sure I can learn how to!’
And so Numskull Jack became king, gained a wife and a crown and sat on a throne, and we’ve got this straight from the Guildmaster’s News – and that is completely unreliable!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Rough draft of a translation of Baudelaire's 'Harmonie du soir'

Harmonie du soir

Voici venir le temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!

Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Le violon frémit comme un cœur qu’on afflige;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige !
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon frémit comme un cœur qu’on afflige,
Un cœur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.

Un cœur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige…
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir !

Evening harmony

Now comes the time when on its trembling stem below
Just like a censer every flower evaporates;
In evening air the sounds and perfumes all gyrate;
A melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!

Just like a censer every flower evaporates;
The fiddle shudders like a heart struck by some blow;
A melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!
The sky’s sad, lovely altar of repose awaits.

The fiddle shudders like a heart struck by some blow,
A tender heart which hates the great void’s pitch-black spate;
The sky’s sad, lovely altar of repose awaits;
In its own clotting blood the sun has drowned its glow.

A tender heart, which hates the great void’s pitch-black spate,
Now puts each vestige of its radiant past on show;
In its own clotting blood the sun has drowned its glow...
Your memory in me now monstrance-like dilates!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Inger Hagerup: 'Rødstrupe' in English translation


Ingen har lettere halefjær
og rødere silkeskjorte.
Og ingen kan være så plutselig nær
og bli så plutselig borte.

Hvile seg litt på et lubbent nek
og muntert på vakt med blikket:
Mennesket er et ufarlig krek,
for fly kan det heldigvis ikke!

Robin redbreast

No one has tail-feathers quite as light
and red silk shirt any brighter.
And can quite so suddenly flash into sight,
so suddenly vanish either.

Resting a while on its chubby neck,
its gaze so merry yet wary:
Humans are hopeless, can’t even peck
and since they can’t fly quite unscary!

Monday, 4 March 2019

Inger Hagerup: 'Det bor en gammel baker' in English translation

det bor en gammel baker

Det bor en gammel baker
på en bitte liten øy.
Han er så lei av kaker
og krem og syltetøy.
Men han må sitte likevel
og spise sine kaker selv.
For han bor helt alene
på en bitte liten øy.

Når små og store båter
går dampende forbi,
da sitter han og gråter
i sitt varme bakeri,
og spiser loff og fattigmann,
for ingen kunder går i land.
Og han er helt alene
på en bitte liten øy.

Det var en gammel baker
på en bitte liten øy.
Han åt for mange kaker
med krem og syltetøy.
Forleden dag så satt han død
midt i en haug av wienerbrød.
Og nå bor ingen baker
på en bitte liten øy.

there lives an ancient baker

There lives an old, old baker
on a tiny little isle.
Cake, cream and jam this maker
of fine fare won’t cause to smile.
He has to sit there by his shelf
and eat up all his cakes himself.
For he lives quite alone there
on a tiny little isle.

When all the boats come plying
and past his isle they swarm,
he always sits there crying
in his bakery so warm,
and eats fried twisters and white bread,
since no one lands that would be fed.
And he is quite alone there
on a tiny little isle.

There was an old, old baker
on a tiny little isle.
Cake, cream and jam this maker
of fine cakes did gorge awhile.
The other day he sat there dead
right in a heap of sugarbread,
And now there lives no baker
on a tiny little isle.