Hubert van Herreweghen: Migrating Birds (From Dutch)


Some may be interested to know that this poem was published in 1945, shortly after the German surrender that ended WWII in Europe. If you're a Dutch speaker, I sincerely apologize for the last line of my translation not being able to match the original in awesomeness. There is a limit to my powers, and the dual resonance of "rest" in the Dutch is frustratingly close to being translatable, but not quite.

Migrating Birds
By Hubert van Herreweghen
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Dutch
Click to hear me recite the English translation

That summer with its total lie;
O pang we learned at autumn's hands.
Under the cloudscape, slow and high,
A blackwing bird before my eye
Wheeling for southern lands.

The wildgeese magicked into flight,
The clamoring cries of cranes that soar
Over the land in gilded light.
And then the shadow pulled down tight
In winter blackout till they trek once more.

Sensitive heart, senses laid bare!
You have no nest in east or west,
Landsick and restless here as there.
Just learn to love life everywhere
Or what is left of life and rest.

The Original:


De zomer die ons heeft bedrogen;
o weemoed die de herfst ons leert.
Onder de wolken, trage en hoge,
een zwarte vogel voor mijn ogen
die naar het zuiden keert.

Magische vlucht der wilde ganzen
en kraanvogels met luid gekrijs
over het land vol gouden glansen.
Dan valt de schaduw die de ganse
winter verduistert tot de nieuwe reis.

Ontvankelijk hart, kwetsbare zinnen,
er is geen honk in oost of west
of gij zijt rusteloos, er binnen.
Leert toch het leven te beminnen
of wat er van het leven rest.


  1. Dear Mr. Foreman,

    How glad I am to have discovered your blog. I am Dutchspeaking (Belgium like Van Herreweghen. Your translation is very good but as always with translations it is never as good as the original. You are a real polyglot. I was so glad to find here translations of great Hebrew, Jiddish and other poems in languages I cannot read ... and to hear them in the original. Your site is a real goldmine!



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