Poetry: Voorbij de Laatste Stad – Gerrit Achterberg

I like to dabble with translating – in fact, somewhere within I still dream of making money as a translator, somehow. So, I usually take an opportunity to translate something between English and Dutch. I even do it ‘the wrong way around’: it is said you should always translate to your native language. I usually end up translating to English instead. I’d like to think I’m even not half bad :P (better than Google Translate at least, har har).

A friend of mine asked me to translate the following poem for him, from Dutch into English. It’s very beautiful by one of the highest-acclaimed Dutch poets of the last century, Gerrit Achterberg.

Oddly, when I looked at my previous attempt at translating a poem (Melopee by Paul van Ostaijen), I noticed just how bloody similar the two poems are. Read for yourself, it’s kinda spooky.

Anyway, here goes. As with Melopee I’ve put a technical explanation of what I did and why below the fold. Enjoy!

Voorbij de Laatste Stad – Gerrit Achterberg

Aan het roer dien avond stond het hart
en scheepte maan en bossen bij zich in
en zeilend over spiegeling
van al wat geleden had
voer ik met wind en schemering
om boeg en tuig voorbij de laatste stad

Beyond the Final Town – Gerrit Achterberg

At helm that evening Heart stood strong
embarking moon and woods with him on board
and sailing ‘cross reflection of
all things that grief had known
I steered with wind and dusk that streamed
round bow and rig beyond the final town

Vertaling/translation: Marcel Volker

(technical background below the fold)

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Poetry: Melopee – Paul van Ostaijen

Poetry? Why?

Have you gone SOFT Marcel?

Well… my dear friend Iki sent me a set of photos of our weekend in Belgium this January. On one of them I thought I recognised a few lines by my favourite Dutch(-language) poet: Paul van Ostaijen.

‘Onder de maan schuift de lange rivier / Over de lange rivier’

Which is just so in the style of van Ostaijen. Indeed it was – which made me really smug for having recognised him based on just a line and a half :p – and it turns out to be his last poem; a calm, dispassionate, impressionist discription of his life. It’s not so long so I tried my hand at a translation for Iki whose Dutch isn’t as good as her Swedish – and I actually think I didn’t do too bad a job.

So, I’m publishing it here and now. Ah, the joys of vanity.

Melopee – Paul van Ostaijen

Onder de maan schuift de lange rivier
Over de lange rivier schuift moede de maan
Onder de maan op de lange rivier schuift de kano naar zee

Langs het hoogriet
langs de laagwei
schuift de kano naar zee
schuift met de schuivende maan de kano naar zee
Zo zijn ze gezellen naar zee de kano de maan en de man
Waarom schuiven de maan en de man getweeën gedwee naar de zee

Mélopée – Paul van Ostaijen

Under the moon the long river slides
Over the long river the moon sleepily slides
Under the moon on the long river the canoe slides to sea

Past the high reed
past the low pasture
slides the canoe to sea
slides with the sliding moon the canoe to sea
So to sea they are companions the canoe the moon and the man
Why do the two the moon and the man meekly slide to sea

Vertaling/translation: Marcel Volker

(technical background below the fold)

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