Monday, 28 July 2014

A famous poem by P.C. Boutens in a revised edition


Nacht-stilte

Stil, wees stil: op zilvren voeten
Schrijdt de stilte door den nacht,
Stilte die der goden groeten
Overbrengt naar lage wacht...
Wat niet ziel tot ziel kon spreken
Door der dagen ijl gegons,
Spreekt uit overluchtsche streken,
Klaar als ster in licht zoû breken,
Zonder smet van taal of teeken
God in elk van ons.


Night-silence

Hush now, hush: on feet of silver
Through the night see silence go,
Silence that from gods delivers
Greetings to the watch below...
What ’twixt souls could not be spoken
In the daytime’s empty din
From high realms that night has woken,
Into light star-bright now broken,
Sullied by no word or token
God speaks deep within.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A poem by the Dutch writer P.N. van Eyck


the gardener and death

A Persian nobleman:

This morning, white with fear, my gardener flees
Into my house: ‘Master, a moment please!’

Out in the rose-beds, pruning shoots with care,
I looked behind me. Death was standing there.

I gave a start, and sought my getaway,
But glimpsed his hand that made as if to slay.

Master, your horse, and at full tilt I’ll ride,
Ere evening comes, in Isfahan I’ll hide!’ –

This afternoon (long since he off had set)
Amongst the cedars Death I also met.

‘Why,’ I inquire, since he waits silently,
‘Did you my servant treat so threateningly?’

Smiling he said: ‘A threat caused in no wise
Your gardener to flee. I showed surprise

To find still here and busy just the man
This evening I must fetch in Isfahan.’

Monday, 21 July 2014

Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid' is not at all what you think it is!

The little mermaid

Far out at sea the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower and as clear as the purest glass, but it is very deep, deeper than any anchor cable can reach, many church towers would have to be placed on top of each other to stretch from the sea-bed to the surface.
Down there the sea-folk live.
Do not believe, though, that there is nothing but silver sand on the sea bed; no, the most marvellous trees and plants grow there that have such pliant trunks, stems and leaves that the slightest movement of the water causes them to move as if they were alive. All the fishes, great and small, slip between their branches, just as birds up here to in the air. At the very deepest spot lies the sea-king’s palace, the walls are of coral and the tall pointed windows of the clearest amber, but the roof is of mussel shells that open and close as the water passes – it looks so lovely, for in each of them lie gleaming pearls, a single one of which would be a prize gem in a queen’s crown.
For many years the sea-king down there had been a widower, but his old mother kept house for him, she was a wise woman, but proud of her high birth, so she always wore twelve oysters on her tail while all the other fine folk were only allowed to wear six. Otherwise she was greatly praised, especially because she was so fond of the small sea-princesses, the daughters of her son. There were six lovely children, but the youngest one was the most beautiful of them all, her skin was a clear and delicate as a rose petal, her eyes as blue as the deepest sea, but like the rest of them she had no feet, her body ended in a fish’s tail.


To read the whole fairytale, go to here

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A poem by Hendrik van Veldeke, 12th century poet who the locals claim wrote in Old Limburgish. Always included in Dutch poetry anthologies.

Swer ze der minne ist sô vruot,
       Daz er der minne dienen kan,
Und er durch minne pîne tuot,
       Wol im, derst ein saelic man!
Von minne kumet uns allez guot,
Diu minne machet reinen muot,
       Waz solte ich sunder minne dan?

Ich minne die schoenen sunder danc,
       Ich weiz wol, ir minne ist klâr.
Obe mîne minne ist kranc.
       Sô wirt ouch niemer minne wâr.
Ich sage ir mîner minne danc,
Bî ir minne stât mine sanc,
       Er ist tump, swers niht geloubet gar.


Whoe’er in love so wise can be
       That in love’s service he’ll withstand
The pain from which he’d seek to flee,
       Good luck to him, the happy man!
All goodness we from love get free,
       The mind through love gains purity,
How then should I without love stand?

I love the fair one, will or no,
       And know full well her love is clear.
Should my love have too weak a glow,
       Then no true love can be sincere.
Her for my love I thanks would show,
Without her love my song can’t flow,
       Who doubts this is a fool, I fear.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Time for a Bellman!


FREDMAN’S SONGS
No. 21

Mealtime song

Then off we’ll lumber, every one,
leave Bacchus’ din and noisy shout,
when death calls to us: ‘Neighbour, come,
       your hour-glass has run out.’
You, old man, put your crutches down,
and you, sweet youth, my law obey:
the fairest nymph whose smile you own
       link arms with right away.
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!

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!

But you who sit lips tightly pressed,
whom bolts, bars, iron and locks protect,
arms folded on your money chest
       shut in and circumspect;
and you who, jealous, smash again
all bottles, goblets, mirrors too,
now say goodnight, your wine-glass drain
       your rival greet anew;
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!

And you with titles’ fine array
who gild your beggar’s staff each year,
who though of rank can hardly pay
       the cost of your own bier;
and you who angry, idle, base
would curse your infancy’s own hearth,
will e’er display your drunken face
       down to the cup’s last half;
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!

You who to war have strode ahead
in bloodstained shirt at bugle’s call;
and you who romp in curtained bed,
       in Cloris’ fair arms sprawl;
and you who with your golden book
at temple’s echo stand and pause,
who shake your head with learnèd look,
       and wage disastrous wars;
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!

And you who with such honest eyes
your friends blaspheme with undue zest
and at your wine them stigmatise
       and do so as in jest;
and you who fail them to defend.
though never fail them to allow
to give you drinks you then up-end,
       what is your answer now?
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!

But you who till your dying day,
your host’s glass have not thought to chink
since to his table you did stray,
       although he calls out: Drink!
Force such a guest from food and wine,
Away with him and all his mob,
and wrench then with a look malign
the wine glass from his gob.
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!

Say, neighbour, say, are you content?
Then praise your host when he appears.
And should we both be homeward bent,
       let’s walk together: Cheers!
But first with wine, both red and white,
let’s bow deep to our hostess fair,
and slip into the grave aright
       in evening star’s bright flare.
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!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Another Bloem poem


RAIN AND MOONLIGHT

The summer night will soon pale into morning; 
As yet no trace of light invades the skies.
Only the rain’s small voice before the dawning
That at my open window sighs.

Though bed was sought to ease life’s long chastising
By one who longs for sleep when earth confines,
I seem to feel a lighter joy arising
Because the moon so brightly shines.

Oh restlessness on days when sun is hateful, 
Oh roads on which one suffers dust’s fierce bite,
Who after lethargy and fear would not feel grateful
At such a perfect light? 

All that I have withheld while life was calling,
A yearning without form and without name,
Has now turned into warm rain that is falling  
Outside a silver pane.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

J.C. Bloem was good at short poems - here's one


breathing

Finding itself alone beneath the gleaming
Of autumn stars that glitter high above
A world grown calm, the heart can now approve:
There’s little more to life on earth than breathing.

But that is: in this vale’s depths to coerce
Into one’s self a space immensely greater,
And then, one shared unsteady moment later,
Return it to the plundered universe.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A poem by the Belgian 'Poet of the Fatherland' Charles Ducal (b. 1952)


MERCIFUL

Her head hung over the washbowl,
her midriff belled her defenceless buttocks.
The moment seemed ordained for the blow,
a simple neck-chop, without any fuss.

He briefly stroked with tormenting finger.
The skin went taut like the film on milk.
His urge got harder. He strove to desire her.
She cooed seductively: is this the moment?

Then he saw himself in the mirror,
the scrawny legs, the shirt that was huge.
The power of love made his eyes grow bigger.
He tweaked her buttocks, in merciful mood.

Friday, 4 July 2014

A poem from the 1880s movement in Dutch literature by Willem Kloos


The trees are wilting at the season’s end,
Awaiting motionless the approaching winter
How still it all is, deathly still... The stint of
My own brief life’s contained there, almost spent.

Ah, much, so much I dearly would have done,
Some Verses and some Love, – for who is eager
Without them to face death? But who by meagre
Rage or complaint has something ever won?

Contented, still and meek I now will be,
And nothing from that Life I take with me
Than this thought that is pounding in my brain:

One need not shudder at one’s own fond Death:
The dead flowers will not ever come again,
But I will in my Verse once more draw breath.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A poem by the Flemish writer Erik Spinoy

At the Jewish cemetery

many of the stones lie overturned. Their lie
does not seem random to me, nor their fall
as being caused by gravity, but rather by
a power that has an underlying reason.

So that each slab or tombstone there lies
thwacked down with a purpose – a soul – and waits
on the bühne of the cemetery till someone
who comprehends comes in from the wings.

But what then am I doing here? None of these
stone bodies moves at all, no voice is to
be heard that pierces their grey outlines.
We always stand as strangers next to one

another. From them to me no gesture reaches out
that can be long enough.