Friday 1 March 2024

Thomas Kingo: 'Dend klare Sool gaar ned'

the fourth evening song


The bright sun starts to set, soon evening will be here,

Each labourer is tired and hopes that rest is near:

To death I am yet one day closer than before,

Time for me


Is opening death’s door.


Here time is interchanged, with day replaced by night,

A shadow only of the sun is still in sight!

And finally the world has lost its gloriousness,

Grave’s black maw

And worms that gnaw

Is all that we’ll possess.


Then think, o think again, my soul, your rest don’t seek

Within the world, in faith and fortitude so weak!

A moment since the sun was here, now all is dark,

With the night

The world once bright

Turns desert-like and stark.


I make my way through grass that’s hung with drops of dew

And nature says: Just stop and ponder what’s in view:

The morning’s blossoming, how sadly it has pined!

What once thrived

Has not survived,

Ah! Bear all this in mind.


Be calm, my soul, for on this thought I need to brood:

How patient my God is with me, how mild and good,

I see my striking likeness in the hay and flowers,

Day and night

Teach me aright

The briefness of my hours.


A thousand thanks, o God, who from eternity

Have even so for me in time cared constantly!

Right from the instant that I here on earth did dwell

Of my clay

You have alway

Made more than I can tell.


Of sinful human blood you washed me white as snow,

And in your Son gave me a root on which to grow,

Have raised and nurtured me with your true word as bread,

Yea, my soul

Is oft made whole

When by your food it’s fed.


By your great mercy I’ve been spared all dire

Misfortune until now, in spite of Satan’s ire,

My daily bread on me you also have bestowed

In the cup

From which I sup

Have grace and mercy flowed.


But, o my God, forgive the wrongs I would disown,

Ignore the shoots that from the root of sin have grown,

And my bad conscience from its bonds of sin set free,

Cast them down

And let them drown

For ever in the sea.


Install a watch of guardian angels round my bed,

Let Satan never in my house one footstep tread,

Bring heaven to my mind, make pure my head and heart

May my soul

Remain quite whole,

Unpierced by flesh’s dart.


Your church enlighten, let your glory spread out wide,

Embrace with godly love your spiritual bride

Which in the North you’ve nurtured to your praise,

Vengeance wreak

On those who seek 

Her harm or some malaise.


Lord, let your blessedness before the king’s face go,

And all his enemies like scythed corn be brought low

Increase his earthly glory, let his life be long

May his line

With virtues fine

Know power both great and strong.


O Father, in your mercy, down from heaven gaze

On all your Christendom, all misery erase!

I now am almost ready to retire to bed,

Grant that I

In you may lie

And safely rest my head.


Come, mighty angel host, on soul and body shed

God’s rest and peace, and on what else that lies ahead!

Go sleep now, sack of worms, God’s waking call shall be

Here anon,

But later on

To his eternity.


Wednesday 28 February 2024

Pierre de Ronsard: 'Je n'ai plus que les os'


Je n’ai plus que les os, un squelette je semble,

Décharné, dénervé, démusclé, dépulpé,

Que le trait de la mort sans pardon a frappé,

Je n’ose voir mes bras que de peur je ne tremble.


Apollon et son fils deux grands maîtres ensemble,

Ne me sauraient guérir, leur métier m’a trompé,

Adieu plaisant soleil, mon œil est étoupé,

Mon corps s’en va descendre où tout se désassemble.


Quel ami me voyant en ce point dépouillé

Ne remporte au logis un œil triste et mouillé,

Me consolant au lit et me baisant la face,


En essuyant mes yeux par la mort endormis?

Adieu chers compagnons, adieu mes chers amis,

Je m’en vais le premier vous préparer la place.



I’m but a bag of bones, a skeleton no less,

Defleshed, denerved, depulped, demuscled totally,

Whom death’s sharp lance has wounded unforgivingly,

I scarce dare view my arms, would tremble in distress.


Apollo and his son, great masters I confess,

Would have no cure for me, their craft’s deluded me.

Adieu oh pleasing sun, my eyes but dimly see,

Down to where all’s dismantled do I now progress.


What friend when seeing me of all but skin deprived

Would not, returning home, feel sad and tearful-eyed,

Consoling at my bedside, kissing my wan face,


While wiping eyes that death has dispossessed of view?

Adieu all my dear friends, companions all adieu,

I set out in advance, for you prepare a place.


Tuesday 27 February 2024

Job Degenaar: 'Een man stond voor de oceaan'




Een man stond voor de oceaan

aan weerszijden staken rotsen

hun hoge rug op tegen het land

waarover wolkenschaduwen gleden

kleuren, vormen en lijnen vervloeiden


hij was gekleed in een hem

passende cultuur, zijn geest

huisde in z’n ogen, het leven

droeg hij als een zomerjas

losjes over de schouder


Het cynisme waarin hij doorgaans

school, was met de wolken

weggedreven, hij zag een bergtop

afgerond, herkende zich daarin en

dacht aan de vrouw die hij liefhad


en bedroog, aan zijn zoon

die hij liefhad en bedroog

en aan zichzelf die hij liefhad

en bedroog, hij stond daar

voor de oceaan


en al zijn daden ooit begaan

gingen hem niet meer aan:

water, wind en wolken werd hij

Zijn bevrijding doortrok de ruimte zo

dat het licht een andere wending nam





A man stood facing the ocean

on either side of him rocks raised

their high backs towards the land

over which the shadows of clouds slid

colours, shapes and lines merged


he was dressed in a culture 

that fitted him, his mind

dwelt in his eyes, he wore life

as a summer jacket 

loosely over his shoulders


The cynicism in which he normally

took cover had drifted away with 

the clouds, he saw a rounded

mountain top recognised himself in it and

thought of the woman he loved


and deceived, of his son

whom he loved and deceived

and of himself, whom he loved

and deceived, he stood there

facing the ocean


and all the acts he had ever committed

were no longer of any concern to him:

he became water, wind and clouds

His liberation pervaded space so

that the light took a different turn



Translated in collaboration with Albert Hagenaars

Poetic Synapses 10


Monday 26 February 2024

Pierre de Ronsard: 'Il faut laisser maisons et vergers et jardins'


Il faut laisser maisons et vergers et jardins


Il faut laisser maisons et vergers et jardins,

Vaisselles et vaisseaux que l’artisan burine,

Et chanter son obsèque en la façon du cygne,

Qui chante son trépas sur les bords méandrins.


C’est fait j’ai dévidé le cours de mes destins,

J’ai vécu, j’ai rendu mon nom assez insigne,

Ma plume vole au ciel pour être quelque signe

Loin des appas mondains qui trompent les plus fins.


Heureux qui ne fut onc, plus heureux qui retourne

En rien comme il était, plus heureux qui séjourne

D’homme fait nouvel ange auprès de Jésus-Christ,


Laissant pourrir çà-bas sa dépouille de boue

Dont le sort, la fortune, et le destin se joue,

Franc des liens du corps pour n’être qu’un esprit.



One must leave homes and orchards and gardens behind


One must leave homes and orchards and gardens behind,

One’s metal plates and vessels formed by skilful hands,

And sing one’s own obsequies like the swan, resigned

To death, sings on Meander’s banks in distant lands.


It’s done, I have unwound the clew fate twined for me,

Have lived, have caused my name to brightly shine,

My feather pen flies heavenwards to be a sign

Far from all worldly charms fine folk in vain would flee.


Happy who never was, happier who can return

To nothing he once was, happier whose earthly stay

Means birth as a new angel close to Christ the Lord,


Leaving to rot below his corpse’s filth-filled urn,

To fortune, fate and destiny no longer prey,

Released from mortal ties, pure spirit his reward.

Friday 23 February 2024

Stéphane Mallarmé: 'Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui'

Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui

Va-t-il nous déchirer avec un coup d’aile ivre

Ce lac dur oublié que hante sous le givre

Le transparent glacier des vols qui n’ont pas fui !


Un cygne d’autrefois se souvient que c’est lui

Magnifique mais qui sans espoir se délivre

Pour n’avoir pas chanté la région où vivre

Quand du stérile hiver a resplendi l’ennui.


Tout son col secouera cette blanche agonie

Par l’espace infligée à l’oiseau qui le nie,

Mais non l’horreur du sol où le plumage est pris.


Fantôme qu’à ce lieu son pur éclat assigne,

Il s’immobilise au songe froid de mépris

Que vêt parmi l’exil inutile le Cygne.



The virgin, the persisting and lovely today

Will its wild-beating wing for us slash down across

This hard, forgotten lake haunted beneath the frost

By the transparent glacier of flights’ vain essay!


A swan of former times recalls that it is he

Magnificent but forced to abdicate all hope

For failing to have sung of climes where life has scope

In the sterile winter that radiates ennui.


His neck entire will shake these whites that agonise

Inflicted on the bird by space the bird denies,

But not the dreaded ground that holds his plumage chained.


Ghost that assigns this place sheer sheen to struggle on,

A total stillness is the cold dream of disdain

Which in futile exile as cloak serves for the Swan.

This is the sixth draft - I have no idea if a final version will ever be possible 




Wednesday 21 February 2024

Menno Wigman: 'Zwembad Den Dolder'




Er zijn gevoelens die fascistisch zijn.

De vader die niet weet waarom hij slaat, 

de zoon die half verstikt in foto’s krast.


De mooiste idioot die ik ooit zag

lag op zijn rug een heel heelal te zijn.

Geen vader kreeg ooit greep op deze pees


die als een kosmonaut het bad door dreef,

geen moeder stookte in zijn vissenkom.

En wit en scheef en wijs zwom hij. Hij zwom.





There are emotions of a fascist kind.

The father who hits out but can’t tell why,

the son half-choked who scratches photos through.


The loveliest idiot I ever saw

lay on his back, a total universe.

No father got to grasp this basket case


that drifted through the pool like one in space,

no mother poked his bowl of fish around.

And skewed and pale and wise he swam. Swam sound.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Philippe Cailliau: 'Als levens van geen tel'



Nooit meer verbijsterd is de man

die maskers liefheeft om de lege ogen,

om de open mond, het zwijgen en

de gaten die geen gaten zijn.

Nooit meer is hij


De man die bij de bron

probeert te blijven, wiens handen

zonder water zijn, die tevergeefs

een ademende moeder zoekt,

een vrouw om te omhelzen.

Nooit altijd zoekt.


Lijfeigen wordt zijn stilte. Gebarsten

zal zijn warmte zijn. Explosies klinken

zoals zijn geheugen een explosie

onder water klinken doet. Dan

is hij dwarrelende vis.


Nooit zal hij vastlopen

in de stroomversnelling

van zijn eigen wonderjaren.





No longer baffled is the man

who’s fond of masks for their empty eyes

and open mouth, who chooses silence and

the holes that are no holes at all.

No longer is he


The man that tries to remain

close by the well, whose hands

are without water, who in vain

seeks a breathing mother,

a woman to embrace.

Never looks for always.


His silence will become his serf. His

warmth may have burst. Explosions sound

like his memory makes an underwater

explosion resound. Then he is

but a swirling fish. 


Never will he get stuck

in the rapids of

his own miraculous years.



Translated in collaboration with Albert Hagenaars

Poetic Synapses 9


Monday 19 February 2024

R.M. Rilke: 'Petite Cascade'


Petite cascade


Nymphe, se revêtant toujours 

de ce qui la dénude, 

que ton corps s'exalte pour 

l'onde ronde et rude.


Sans repos tu changes d'habit, 

même de chevelure; 

derrière tant de fuite, ta vie 

reste présence pure.



Small cascade


Nymph, always donning once more that

which seeks to lay her bare,

that lets your body revel at

the coursing waves that tear.


You change your clothes incessantly

even your hair’s allure;

your life, since you have ceased to flee,

stays presence, sheer and pure.



Nils Ferlin: 'Nu sover Sorg'




Nu sover Sorg och nu sover Skratt

och alla stjärnorna sova.

Men jag som vakat så mången natt

har ingen längtan att sova.


Jag måste vänta en stund och se

om inte något ska hända,

om inte någonting stort vill ske

förr’n natten lupit till ända.





Now Sorrow’s sleeping and Laughter too

and all the stars they are sleeping.

But I, awake many whole nights through,

have no desire to be sleeping.


I must wait here now attentively

so nothing catches me napping,

so nothing big happens I don’t see

before the night’s done its lapping.