Don Maclennan. Vertaling in Afrikaans

 

Don Maclennan. Vertaling van Engels in Afrikaans. Vert. deur Bester Meyer

 

Die les in poësie

 

Terwyl ek tussen klasse op die balkon rook

pak ʼn gevoel van bedruktheid my −

luister na die rooivlerk-spreeus in die bome.

Ek kort ʼn oor vir my belydenis;

tog kyk ek eerder hoe my leerders die klas binnegaan.

Dis vroegsomer, en die stinkhout in die binneplein

is al reeds net so hoog soos my balkon,

besaai met gebreekte duifneste

en kalkhoudende stapeltjies mis.

 

*   *   *

 

Ek neem my leegheid na binne.

Teen die tyd is my leerders heel mak

en spreek my op my voornaam aan.

Aantreklik en intelligent glimlag hulle

− sonder enige afguns − vir hulle onderwyser,

die vier en sestigjarige gawe ou gek

met gevlekte tande, hangwange en ʼn bles.

Ek bewonder hulle energie, hulle gelaatstrekke,

hulle briljante tande, die straling van hul hare,

die jong mans se spiere

en die dametjies se aanloklike borste.

Ek bewonder hulle moed –

dat hulle in hierdie ontmoedigende tye

steeds wil weet wat die doel en betekenis

van die digkuns is.

Swier en skoonheid is deur die biologie aan hulle bemaak

en aan my – ʼn wankelrige gewaarwording van plig.

 

Ek gee my ongelouterde kinders Thomas Hardy:

‘Daar rakel ʼn uiting van eenvoud in hulle…

      En ons wonder, altyd die-wonder van hoekom ís ons hier?’

Hulle ken poësie al hul hele lewe lank,

het kundige opstelle daaroor geskryf.

“Sê my dan nou, wat dit is”, vra ek.

Hulle is stomgeslaan, soos diere

wat die gapende leegheid ruik

van wat hul eendag in die gesig sal staar.

Miskien het ek bloot my eie vrese

op hulle geprojekteer –

dat evolusie geen doel het nie,

dat gees en verstand, selfs god,

slegs woorde is wat ons gebruik

omdat ons nie verstaan nie.

Hoe kan ʼn mens ontdek wat siel is

in hierdie wurmagtige embrioniese aard?

Taal is ʼn ongestutte hek, en soos gedigte

is ons kosteloos-kortstondige verbygangers −

reëndruppels wat vlietend glinster in die son.

 

*   *   *

 

Hulle kyk na my met verwagting

− neem aan dat my swye

ʼn opvoedkundige oogmerk het:

hulle glo my nie wanneer ek

sê dat dit onkunde is nie.

Dat ek hulle nié sal toelaat om woorde

soos ‘transendentaal’ en ‘skoonheid’ te gebruik nie −

dat dit teenstrydig sal wees met my pligsbesef.

Hulle kan die antwoord net buite hulle bereik aanvoel.

Bedwelming oorstroom hulle buike,

hul ingewande, geslagsdele, en die gedig

sweef die groen môre gulhartig binne −

verwonderend word ons stilte vol(ge)maak.

En dan, amper buite bereik, vermeng sy

met die spreeus se gefluit,

en word ʼn ver-wonder-ing … vreemd.

 

*

 

The poetry lesson

Don Maclennan

 

Between classes I slide into depression,

take a smoke on the balcony,

listen to the redwing starlings in the trees.

I need someone to hear my confession;

instead I watch my students entering the room.

It’s early summer, and the stinkwood in the quad

have grown up to the level of my balcony

which is strewn with broken pigeon nests

and calciferous piles of droppings.

 

*    *    *

 

I bring my emptiness inside.

By now my students are domesticated

and call me by my christian name.

Attractive and intelligent, they smile

unenviously at their teacher,

the sixty-four year amiable old fool

with stained teeth, dewlap, and bald head.

I admire their vigour and their skin,

their brilliant teeth, their radiant hair,

the young men’s muscles

and the girls’ enticing breasts.

I admire their courage that they

at this unnerving time in history

still want to know

the purpose and meaning of poetry.

Biology confers on them such grace and beauty,

and on me a faltering sense of duty.

 

I give my unchastened children Thomas Hardy:

“Upon them stirs in lippings mere…

     We wonder, ever wonder, why we find us here’

They have known poetry all their lives,

have written learned essays on it.

“Now tell me what it is”, I ask them.

They are struck dumb, like animals

that smell a yawning emptiness

that waits beyond their years.

Perhaps I have projected onto them

some of my own fears –

that evolution has no purpose,

that mind and spirit, even god,

are only words we use

because we do not understand.

Where can you detect the soul

in our wormlike embryonic state?

Language is a postless gate:

like poems we are gratuitous and ephemeral,

raindrops glistening briefly in the sun.

 

*    *     *

 

They look at me expectantly

supposing that my silence

is a pedagogical device:

they don’t believe me

when I say it’s ignorance.

I will not let them use the words

‘transcend’ and ‘beauty’

because it goes against my sense of duty.

They sense an answer

just beyond their grasp.

Intoxication floods

their solar plexus, bowels and genitals,

and the poem floats free

into the green morning

amazed and filing our silence.

Almost out of range it mingles

with the whistles of the starlings,

and becomes astonishing and strange.

 

 Bronverwysing:

Maclennan, D. 2013. Collected Poems (edited by Dan Wylie). Robin Stuart-Clark.

 

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