Breyten Breytenbach. Vertaling in Engels

Breyten Breytenbach: Vertaling uit Afrikaans in Engels. Vert. deur Ampie Coetzee


lay-aside letter for a poem


Dear poem, stay with me.

Do not when the end is near

leave me in the lurch. We have been together in many stories

for years and tides, through lands and landscapes and loves

and secret rooms where gallows towered,

from the one mask to the other

monkey trick or apostrophe or funeral. Who knows me better?


I did not always treat you well,

misused you, whored with you, even

like a shameless Peter betrayed you as a sentimental weakness

or something one whispers under the cloak to fighters in the mountains

even before the cock crows a third time.


Yet I never actually forsook you.

I saw how hard you tried

to be my forefront and my rearguard

to cover my fear and ecstasy, how often you

had to apologize for me.


And now you have come of age – or simply sick and tired?

Now you can  so-called live on your own without me.

But stay a while. Hold tight my hand

and lead me now I can see and know less and less

to count off the words like scarce small change.

Come let’s pretend we still like each other

and travel together the last syllables

to where I can let you walk on your own

to the death of the tongue.


Oh, we could have gone further, I grant you that,

up to the borders of crossing

where I was too scared of losing you, my young guide.


Do you still remember our distant discoveries

in dark trains through the night, click-clack,

and the dreams I had passed on to you,

to wake up early and hungrily

look through the window upon new landscapes

of lying-erect mountains where other wild poems live –

what are the people doing there?


You are the only one that I ever allowed

in the intimate lost places, to lay with me

and the beloved under the sheet

with your feet like rough metaphors.


And now we are old. I am looking for you, bokkie-bokkie

on the yard, paging through tattered notebooks

to see if perhaps you’ve left a message

(you always had too many loose thoughts.)

But you are missing. You don’t want to take revenge, do you?


When I wake up from the night you have

left me an empty sheet of paper.

You look at me across the work table speechless.

What do you want to say?


That it has passed? I am too old and full of freckles?

That I couldn’t protect our thoughts anymore,

I no more wanted to inject you with speech,

and you choose to live in the bush like a beast

to sing and to dance of forgotten gods?


Rather kill me before you go.

Stay with me.

Slit my throat as final line!


(‘weglêbrief vir gedig’  from die beginsel van stof pp. 34-36. Human en Rouseau, 2011.)

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Een Kommentaar op “Breyten Breytenbach. Vertaling in Engels”

  1. Leon Retief :

    Ek het hierdie vertaling aan my vriend en digter Glen Sorestad van Saskatoon gestuur. Hier is sy kommentaar: Thank you so much for sending along this wonderful poem of Breyten Breytenbach. To my eyes and ears this translation “feels” like an excellent one. Breytenbach’s voice is a powerful and distinctive one in literature. And this certainly is the work of a man who is looking back at his life of writing with a great many different emotions and senses. I wonder whether Breytenbach may have seen himself very much in the same sense as Irving Layton of Canada did in his life of poetry, as a kind of prophet in the wilderness of a society increasingly besot with evil?