Gains and Losses in Poetic Translation

Counting little ditties and Wordles, and a long nonsense-rhyme written but not yet blogged, I have met the total of writing thirty poems for GloPoWriMo during April.
For this final day a translation is suggested.  I have chosen an Afrikaans poem learnt at school, and found it a challenging exercise to make the various trade-offs of rhyme, meaning and meter which become necessary:


C. Louis Leipoldt:

Die koperkapel kom uit sy gat
En sluip die randjie rond:
“Dit het gereën; die veld is nat,
En nat is die rooi-geel grond.”
Die meerkat kom, en sy ogies blink,
En hy staan orent en wag.
En die stokou ystervark sê:
“Ek dink Die reën kom weer vannag.”
Maar die geitjie piep:
“Dis glad nie reën!
Dis kollerig, swart en rooi:
Kom jy sulke reën in jou lewe teen –
So glad, so styf, so mooi?”
En die wyse steenuil waag sy woord:
“Dis bloed, dis mensebloed!
Dis die lewensbloed wat hierdie oord
Se bossie-wortels voed!”

(Colonialist translation.)


Cape cobra from his hole comes out,
And slithers ridge around:
“It’s rained; the wet veld leaves no doubt;
And wet is the yellow-red ground.”
The meerkat* comes, and he blinks his eyes,
And he stands upright to wait.
Hear the ancient porcupine advise:
“I think it’ll rain again, late.”
But the gecko chirps, “This is not rain;
It is patchy, black and red,
“Will you see such rain in your life again –
So smooth; stiff; fine?” he said.
And the wise old screech-owl adds his worth,
“It’s blood, here humans bleed!
On life-blood from this place’s earth
The bush-roots now will feed.”

*See my avatar picture.
© April 2016 Colonialist (WordPress)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Africa, Challenge, Colonialist, Language, NaPoWriMo, Poems, Rhyme and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Gains and Losses in Poetic Translation

  1. GP Cox says:

    Obviously, Mr. Leipoldt knew what he was talking about and you did a great job in bringing it to us!!


  2. That’s terrific – job well done 😀


  3. That is a beautiful poem-translation. I’m astounded that you managed to rhyme it!
    (Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a comment on my poem. I left you a response, saying that the link for “La Double Vie de Veronique was there, but because it was the same colour as the rest of the paragraph at the bottom, it had not been detected. I changed the colour of the link for you and others to see.


  4. Wonderful result: worth all the effort. I usually have to abandon rhyme and metre when translating poetry. If I don’t,, the mood and meaning seem to vanish.


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