Maurice Gilliams: Autumn (From Dutch)

The son of a Dutch-speaking father and Francophone mother in bilingual Belgium, Maurice Gilliams grew up completely bilingually. He made Dutch his literary medium by choice, rather than having it foisted upon him. (Although being born in majority-Flemish Antwerp and spending some of his childhood in Amesterdam probably had something to do with it.) Also, thank god for the Germanic kinship of English and Dutch. Or else the pun of zonen "sons" (pronounced /zonə/) in place of the expected zonnen (pronounced /zɔnə/) "suns" would have had me weeping.

By Maurice Gilliams
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Dutch
Click to hear me recite the translation

It's country for old men when summer fails.
Here yawns the heather in its gall of pox;
The brown of oaks takes on the smell of dogs,
The village glows in its October bells.

Wearily honey drips in earthen pots
At which the halfwise hands unite in solace;
Lonely the millstones turn and turn till always,
The castle standing in its own moat rots.

Deathbeds glimmer in the fathers' gold.
It's evening and the sons behold the wonder:
Their house of birth, in drowning fog, goes under
With youth and love and all that is now too old.

The Original:


Het is een land van grijsaards na de zomer,
hier geeuwt de heide in haar gal van zonde;
het bruin der eiken heeft de geur van honden, 

het dorp gloeit in zijn klokken van oktober. 

De honig druipt vermoeid in aarden potten
waaraan de handen zich getroost verenen; 

en eenzaam duurt ’t gemaal der molenstenen,
’t kasteel staat in zijn grachten te verrotten. 

Sterfbedden blinken van het goud der vaderen, 

’t is avond en de zonen zien het wonder: 

’t geboortehuis dompelt in nevel onder 

en jeugd en lief en ’t ál zijn niet te naderen.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! Not sure about two things though: 'the pox' and the 'drowning fog'. Fog sounds a whole lot thicker than 'nevel' to me. Nevel is more 'a haze', I'd say.
    Also, in Dutch, the 'gal van zonde' is seriously beautiful because of the combination between 'gall' and 'sin'. That seems lost in the 'pox'. To me at least.