P/P | r2c | August: "Dance in Stone" and the Poetry of Relationship

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Dance in Stone "Beautiful is gold, most beautiful of all metals.
Beautiful is alabaster and the airy crystals;
Beautiful is light, when the sun is about to set,...
Beautiful is Peace, most beautiful thing on Earth!—"

from Peace, a poem
Jacobus Revius (1586-1658)

This week, an image from the Neon Graffiti
collection called,
Dance in Stone.
Also: seven
new translations of Lowland poems.

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Zeven Gedichten; Seven Poems

The guest poems for this week are new English translations of a set of seven Dutch pieces.
The six featured poets are,
Herman De Coninck, P. C. Boutens, Piet Paaltjens,
Judith Herzberg, Tony de Ridder, P.A. de Génestet
and Jacobus Revius:

The Poetry of Relationship

The late Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, often
spoke of life as a movement of relationship. With this he meant relationship
with others, within ourselves and with the earth itself. Within this simple yet
powerful way of looking, one can easily see that this movement might
be characterized in any number of different states, varying from relative
order and harmony to deeply entrenched conflict.

Relationship, of course, has also been a perennial theme of the poetries
of all world cultures. This is not surprising, in that we can see as we begin
to ponder the world around us in this way that, indeed, to be is to be
related. It's an interesting theme to pursue in verse, especially in
translation, for we might perhaps learn from cultural viewpoints different
from our own.

The first three poems of our Dutch septet deal with the timeless theme
of intimate relationship. (Notice that in all three poems the beloved
addressed is not actually present, but rather is assumed, which we easily
do without giving it a single thought.) In
Five-year Plan—the title is a light-
hearted reference to Lowland socialist governments penchant for organizing
the chaos of the world in neat units of five—the poet gives us a charming
sequence of contraries while introducing the underlying thought (or hope)
that a marriage of opposites is evidently possible. With
Kissing, we have a
quiet intermezzo of bliss. This is followed by the lament in
Immortelles III
(or World-everlasting) for what seems to be the loss of a beloved, which is
beautifully left open with the question of "what is the source of
these tears?"

Judith Herzberg's poem,
Winter Bethulia (see note below *) is a haunting
description of a surreal world, both here-and-now in its natural imagery,
yet taking us back to an ancient biblical past. Here, the poet is perhaps
going back in time into the depths of the psyche to purify a personal
relationship with her own name.

Two People through the Mist we have another surreal landscape,
but this time finally with two real, actual people walking through it.
(Notice how in relationship we are always dealing somehow with the
unity of two.) Again, there is talk of souls, and how they seem to merge
when there is love.

The next duo of strange little thought-poems is by P.A. de Génestet.
Here we have the poet publicly trying to make sense of his own thinking,
in which there is a thorny conflict between the relationship of
not two people, but 'two minds'. (Notice that he doesn't resolve
the contradiction, but simply—as most of us do—opts to live with
rationality and religious belief as uneasy bedfellows in the same house.)

I couldn't resist ending this new set of Dutch translations with the
wonderful Elizabethan grace of style of Jacobus Revius. With
Peace, we
come to that place in relationship where evidently all the friction momentarily
stops and the two and the many move, like an ensemble
of reeds in quietly flowing water, simply as one:


Ik hou van jou. Hou jij van wat niet kan.
Hou jij van je capaciteiten, ik van je gebreken.
Jij van je trots, en ik van hoe die zacht kan breken
in mijn armen. Jij van je moed. Ik van je zwakte /
   nu en dan.

Hou jij van de toekomst. Ik van wat voorbij is gegaan.
Hou jij van de honderd levens die je wilde leven.
Ik hou van dat ene dat is overgebleven
en van hoe je daarom zo ver weg kunt zijn dicht /
   tegen me aan.

Ik hou van wat is. Jij van wat zou.
Hou jij van mij. Ik hou van jou.

   Herman De Coninck
Five Year Plan

I love you. You love that which cannot be.
Where you love capacities, I love shortcomings.
Where you love pride, I love how the fragile can break
in my arms. You love courage. I, your weakness now /
   and then.

You love the future. I, that which is past.
Whereas you love the hundred lives you wanted to live,
I love the one which is left over and thus
the way you can be so far away pressed /
   close to me.

I love what is. You, what should be.
Do you love me. I love you.


Roode lippen, blanke leden
Wijken uit hun eng omhelzen
Naar de koele heldre grenzen
Waar zich oog en oog ontmoeten
In der ziele kus.

Als de diepe blauwe heemlen
Duren over zee en landen,
Duren over dood en leven, -
Over liefdes dood en leven
Duurt der zielen kus.

Toch, ons zielen konden nimmer
Tot elkaêr in oogen reiken,
Konden niet uw warme lippen
Mijne warme lippen kussen,
Hadden niet mijn roode lippen
Uwen rooden mond gekust.

P. C. Boutens

"Vergeten liedjes"
Bussum, 1929

Red lips, white limbs
Turn aside their narrow embrace
Towards the cool clear borders
Where they meet eye to eye
In the kiss of the soul.

As the deep blue heavens
Endure over sea and land,
Endure over death and life,—
Over love's death and life
Endures the kiss of the soul.

And yet, our souls could never
Reach each other through the eyes
Could not your warm lips
My warm lips kiss,
Had not my red lips
Kissed your red mouth.

"Forgotten Songs"

Immortelle III

Waarom ik de loome nachten
Met wrange tranen bedauw? -
Ik weet niet wat ik liever deed,
Dan dat ik het zeggen zou.

En wou ik het ook al zeggen,
Weet ik, of ik het wel kon?
Voor alles is er een oorzaak, -
Maar hebben mijn tranen een bron?

   Piet Paaltjens
Immortelles III

Why do I the languid nights
bedew with harsh tears?—
Than that I should say it,
I know not what I'd rather do.

And would I have already said it,
Do I know, if I could do it?
For everything there is a cause,—
But is there a source for my tears?

Winters Bethulie *

De bomen zo geschikt om wandelend gedachten in te hangen
waren vanochtend uitgeknipt en op een schoon wit vel geplakt.
Ik kan de vorm van sommige wel dromen en wist zo
waar ik was; het struikgewas werd opgelicht door sneeuw
alsof het zomer was. De zon scheen mar te laag het was zo wit
en ik zo rood van binnen en ook vol rook, een mist
om mijn bedoeling te verhullen. Mijn voetstappen de eerste
in de verse sneeuw als van een stroper of een overloper.
Ik ben Judith en heb net Holofernes' nek gezoend
en heel gelaten, ik doe niet meer mee.

Judith Herzberg

Winter Bethulia

The trees, so suitable for hanging up roaming thoughts,
were cut out this morning and pasted upon a white sheet.
I can even dream the form of some of them and so know
where I have been; the woody shrubs are illumined by the snow
as if it were summer. The sun appeared too low it was so white
and I so red from within and so full of smoke, and mist
that I may hide my intentions. My footsteps, the first
in the new snow, like that of a poacher or a deserter.
I am Judith and I have just kissed and left whole
the neck of Holofernes. I will no longer play their game.

Twee Menscehn door het Nevel

Ik zag twee menschen door den nevel schrijden,
Zij gingen, arme' en handen dicht ineen,
Ik zag, dat wat hen werklijk hield gescheiden,
Hen schijnbaar innig te vereenen scheen.

Die menschen waren als twee bomen, eenzaam
Die winter-witte mist heel stil omgeeft.—
Dit hebben ziele' en ijle boom gemeenzaam,
Dat eendre grijze nevel hen omzweeft.

  Tony de Ridder
Two People in the Mist

I saw two people striding through the mist.
They went, arms and hands held close together,
I saw that which truly kept them separate
Apparently also made them intimately one.

The peolple were as two trees, solitary,
Surrounded by quiet winter-white fog.—
Souls and rarefied trees have this in common,
That one gray mist floats about them both.


Mijn Wetenschap en mijn Geloof,
Die leven saam in onmin,
Want die eene houdt, wat de ander doet
En denkt en meent, voor onzin.

Intusschen, beide heb ik lief,
Juist even trouw en innig,
En toch vind ik mij-zelven niet
Onreedlijk noch krankzinnig.

  P.A. de Génestet

My knowledge and my belief,
That live together in disaffection,
For the one loves what the other does
And thinks and considers nonsense.

By now, they are both dear to me,
Both equally intimate and trustworthy,
And yet I find myself neither
unreasonable nor weak of mind.

Overwegende Argumenten

'k Heb met dat nieuwe niets van doen,
Vooreerst, het strijdt met ons fatsoen;
En dan, ik heb een vrouw getrouwd,
Die 't met den Catechismus houdt.

   P.A. de Génestet
Well-Considered Arguments

I want nothing to do with the new,
Firstly, with this struggle with our decency;
And then, I've married a woman
Who holds tightly to her catechism.


Schoon is het goud, het schoonste der metalen,
Schoon 't alebast en 't luchtige kristal;
Schoon is het licht, wanneer de zon gaat dalen,
Schoon 't elpenbeen en 't rozenrood koral;
Schoon is de Mei, met bloemen zonder tal,
Schoon is de zeeg' met haar bekranste zweerden;
Maar die de kroon moet dragen boven al—
Schoon is de Vreê, de schoonste op der eerden!—

   Jacobus Revius

Beautiful is gold, most beautiful of all metals.
Beautiful is alabaster and the airy crystals;
Beautiful is light, when the sun is about to set,
Beautiful is ivory and the rosy red coral;
Beautiful is May, with its countless flowers,
Beautiful is the sheer cloth with its prize of sores;
But that which must carry above all the crown—
Beautiful is Peace, most beautiful thing on Earth!—

   (all tr. Cliff Crego)

featuring my English translations
of Rainer Maria Rilke, presented together
with a collection of images from the Alps,
very close to where much of his later poetry was composed

Please follow r2c {Straight ROADS.
Slow RIVERS. Deep CLAY.]
on twitter . . .

* This is a reference to "Judith", a book in the Old Testament of the Bible (not the Hebrew, but
Greek Septuagint version). As the story goes, Judith, the devout and beautiful heroine, beguiles
and then beheads the Assyrian commander, Holofernes, thereby liberating Israel and the besieged
city of Bethulia from occupation. The book is thought to originate from the Maccabean period,
around the 2nd century bce.
(Source of data: Groliers Encyclopedia, 1995)

"Straight roads,
Slow rivers,
Deep clay."
A collection of contemporary Dutch poetry
in English translation, with commentary
and photographs
by Cliff Crego

| See also a selection of recent Picture/Poem "Rilke in translation" features at the Rilke Archive.

See also another website
by Cliff Crego:
The Poetry of
Rainer Maria Rilke
A presentation of 80 of the
best poems of Rilke in
both German and
new English translations
biography, links, posters

| # listen to other recordings in English and German of eight poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page (# Includes instructions)
| back to r2c | back to Picture/Poems: Central Display |
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Photograph/Texts of Translations © 2000-2011 Cliff Crego
VIII. 20..2000) (revised: VIII.18..2002/iX/11.2011)