MM Walters – vertaling in Engels

MM Walters – vertaal deur/translated by Michiel Heyns 


M.M. Walters. Foto: Philip de Vos

M.M. Walters. Foto: Philip de Vos

M.M. Walters was born in 1930 in Moorreesburg, and matriculated at the Hoër Jongenskool, Wellington. He studied at the Universities of Cape Town and South Africa, and lectured in Afrikaans and Dutch at the Training Colleges of Graaff Reinet and Paarl, and also at the University of Cape Town. Walters lives in Simonstown. His first poems were published in Standpunte and were later collected in the volume Cabala, for which he received the Eugéne Marais, Ingrid Jonker and W.A.Hofmeyr prizes. This was followed by five more collections, of which the most recent was Satan ter Sprake. Walters has published several dramas and satirical essays. Apart from translations from Virgil, Walters has also published Shi-Ching Liedereboek (2003), a selection from the body of Chinese poetry, and Aki no kure: Herfsskemering (2006), from the Japanese. Walters has also published three coffee-table books containing poems and photos of the Swartland and West Coast regions. A new volume of poetry, Braille-briewe, appeared in 2011. (Protea Bookhouse) 





Just see the mares strut their stuff

with silk-cut mane and sickle neck,

the chest swells tight against the stays –

with foamwhite mouth they tease and trick.                     


Those who can, show good strong teeth,

well-formed flank and playful rump,

but remain remote and self-possessed

knowing how they cause the blood to pump.


Older ladies with thicker thighs

still try to tripple the same brisk trot

and sway their stouter mass with skill

to show the stallion the iron is hot.


(From: Cabala, Nasionale Boekhandel, 1967)

(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)



CHURCH CHOIR                                                                 


With pent up breath they stand and hearken

like hounds alert before the hunt –
impatient, for they know the strains,
but never ever jump the gun.
The sour-faced sopranos scoop the note
with powerful opening of the chest,
lips pursed like buglers on parade.

The organist’s little tremolos of fat
bulge and burble con fuoco
as she spreads herself over the keys.
Well-fed Mara shuts her eyes
to fetch a note from in her womb,
tremor upon tremor the tremolo trills

across the throat and rills

of blubber round the rump.

The stout old basses barrel the breast
filled to bursting with hot breath,
the beardless little basses push the chins
tight into the chest in proud belief
that they’re the ones who shake the church.

The baritones thrum up a virile vibe con brio,

stud stallions in fine fettle,
champing now to show their mettle.
The altos drone a low continuo,

a hive of bees at first adagio,
then pick up the pace and there they go,

till at last they all crescendo rinforzando,
simultaneously:  hallelujah, hallelujah – brazenly,

for all the clamorous caterwaul

proclaims the greater glory of the Lord.


(From: Cabala, Nasionale Boekhandel, 1967)

(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)





Last night I stood before His judgment throne
and heard Him say: what right has this proud soul
who will not kneel and pay my humble toll
to aspire unto my heavenly home?

And a thousand voices cried: Confess, confess
to Him who bears the brunt of all our sin.

If you but humbly pardon ask of Him,

He will wash you and your wrongs redress.


My sole reply was that my knee
can bend for neither God nor man.

May others inherit the promised boon.

To trust in baseless hope is not for me –

my burdens I’ll bear alone, as I can,

and sin-stained and upright, die alone.


(From: Cabala, Nasionale Boekhandel, 1967)

(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)



Michiel Heyns grew up in various towns and cities all over South Africa, and studied at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cambridge. He lectured in English at the University of Stellenbosch until 2003, when he took retirement to write full-time. Apart from a book on the nineteenth-century novel and many critical essays, one of which won the English Academy’s Thomas Pringle Award for Criticism, he has published four novels: The Children’s Day, The Reluctant Passenger, The Typewriter’s Tale and Bodies Politic (a fifth, Lost Ground, is due out in 2011). He translated Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat, which won the 2007 Sunday Times Fiction Award. For this translation he was awarded the English Academy’s Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation 2008 and the South African Institute of Translators’ Award for Literary Translation. His translations of Etienne van Heerden’s 30 Nagte in Amsterdam and Chris Barnard’s Boendoe were published in 2011. He reviews books for the South African Sunday Independent, and was awarded the English Academy’s Thomas Pringle Award for Reviewing in 2006 and again in 2010. 

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