Wilhelm Knobel – vertaling in Engels

Wilhelm Knobel – vertaal deur Tony Ullyatt


carry it carefully over the stony road


carry it carefully over the stony road

he’ll shift in the coffin just now

and try to sit upright with his crushed-in chest

it must be stifling to lie so still

without being able to breathe

and all that earth above you perhaps

only when it’s night

can he leave his quiet resting-place

and amble over the land

and allow his eye to go over the cattle

but before daybreak begins to glow over the yard

and the first sparrows begin chirping in the orchard

he must return

and assume the prescribed position


stretched out

with his hands crossed over his chest

and only a grass seed on his pajama leg

as witness to his nocturnal wandering




Wilhelm Knobel (26.10.1935-06.01.1974)

Six translations for the 36th anniversary of his death





a small swallow flies around the room

the woman in the black frock sits at the machine and works

now that he is dead the house is still

the flowers on the grave have long since wilted

day by day visitors become fewer 

the small swallow flies round the room desperately

the woman in the black frock feeds material feverishly to the needle

just now she can drink a pill with her tea

but the day is so long

in the quiet house

the cherry tree in front of the window is almost stripped bare

by weaver birds:

one day soon it will be autumn

the telephone rings and rings

the woman in the black frock weeps




you didn’t have a great deal when you began


you didn’t have a great deal when you began

a dog a lovely girl and a horse

and then you got everything

through years of hard work too, yes,

but above all inspiration and promise

the lovely girl became a woman

and children filled your house

neither of you always understood each other

but insight really comes with the years

and then, on the day of your death, you were alone

more than in the beginning

or did there perhaps for one merciful moment

flash through your brain the comforting image of

your horse and your girl and your dog




I wear a suit a waistcoat and a tie of yours


I wear a suit a waistcoat and a tie of yours

If anyone complements me on the choice of the

dark green and ochre tie

then I think contentedly

we had good taste

my father and I

because didn’t I give it to him on his last birthday

and didn’t he wear it

And when I see the slightly darker spots on the pockets

of the suit

then it does me good to know:

sometimes you also put a sweet in your pocket . . .

for later

and then forgot it

until it threaded stickily through the cloth

But mornings

as I put on the beige waistcoat

and feel its warmth through the day

I wonder

how cold you are now

or does warmth still stream out

from the idea of the fabric tight against my body




Archilochos of Paros is sick


Archilochus of Paros is sick

of living on figs and fish

and then there’s his engagement with Neoboule:

her father has long known he’s a bastard

but still without warning he

sent him on his way one day,

(there was much talk of a richer lover

but no one bothers much about rumours)

would he storm into the house with his sword

and cleave the old man’s flabby belly open

or exit suddenly for some Far Eastern lands

to forget his heart’s passion with exotic women?

you don’t have that much energy

if you have to live on figs and fish

so only satire remains:

the beautiful Neoboule with her slender body

became, in his poems, a faded courtesan

whose charms bewitched no man any longer

and then as if this didn’t satisfy his piqued reputation

he turned her into a fat prostitute

who used cheap perfume too lavishly

Now her honour is avenged

– Neoboule and her father killed themselves

to escape his scathing pen –

life on Paros is even duller now

mornings he wakes with Neoboule’s name on his lips

and evenings the seagulls on the beach call, tormenting him

Neoboule! Neoboule!




in recognition of an old friend

for Doctor Con


there was a time you said

as I sat with a glass of jeripigo in my hand

on an autumn night in Stellenbosch

it isn’t the great agonies that gnaw at a person’s life

but every day’s small frustrations

have you forgotten the small joys?

the languid sparkle of rust-brown jeripigo

the music of Vivaldi in the Boland autumn

time and again

as a new love is smothered

or a deceitful friendship stuns the heart

the familiar music brushes the curtain softly

the fragrance of decaying leaves hangs in the room

and the taste of the wine revives the tongue

distilling the pain


[Nagelate Gedigte (1975). Johannesburg: Perskor-Uitgewery, p. 79]




we thank you for your application


we thank you for your application to be our representative

in Postmasburg

but we doubt whether in that god-forsaken dorp

we want to be represented again

our last representative’s oranges often shrivelled on the rack

and if one or other old maid got it into her head to make marmalade

and she hammered him about not being able to satisfy her needs

should it be us who are in for it and who must pay the doctor’s bills

if we may offer you some advice, keep some frozen concentrated

orange juice in cans

now the old maids must learn once and for all

a glass of pure diluted orange juice in the morning is almost as delicious

and healthier

and if you experience problems with sales early on

you can tell people about the health benefits of citrus

and how important Vitamin C is for the daily diet

and on big occasions

– like the opening of the new school hall or when the mayor’s wife has a baby –

serve citrus instead of wine with the cheese

it’s cheaper

and its refreshing taste exactly the right thing

for the blazing heat of Postmasburg



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