Tuesday 3 May 2016

A sonnet on memory by Elisabeth Eybers


As kind het ’k eens die maan se ronde skyf
langsaam sien uitswel bo die silwer vlei
om saggies soos ’n seepbel weg te dryf
en tussen yl popliere in te gly.

Agter my in die donker was ’n raam
vol lig en mensestemme en gelag
en ín my angs en weekheid sonder naam
terwyl ek op die maan se loskom wag.

Die res is alles duister en verward…
Van tak tot tak het hy gewieg… ek weet
nog net dat die gekneusde gras se geur
soos naeltjies was en dat ek skielik seer-
gekry het van die inkrimp van my hart
en met my pols die trane weggevee’t.


The moon’s round disc I as a child once saw
slowly dilate above the silver vlei
then gently drift off bubble-like before
it slid midst thread-thin poplars by and by.

Behind me in the dark a window pane
was full of light and voices loud and gay,
in me was fear and faintness without name
while watching for the moon to break away.

The rest’s obscure, confused now for my part...
It swayed from branch to branch... I just persist
in sensing still the scent of new-bruised grass
was needle-sharp and too my sudden gasp
of pain at the contraction of my heart
and how I wiped the tears off with my wrist.


John Irons said...

The Afrikaans word 'naeltjies' means small nails or needles, but is also the term for clove nails. So the question here is whether the frightening and threatening nature of the experience of this rising moon, the 'fear and faintness' means that the scent of the crushed grass causes an unpleasant or sharp pricking sensation in the nostrils, or whether the grass actually has a scent of cloves. Since I know too little about both Afrikaans and nature in South Africa, I have asked a native-speaker for an opinion on this.

John Irons said...

I'd love to hear what the poem sounds like in Afrikaans. Can anyone help me?