Posts Tagged ‘English translation Louis Esterhuizen’

Louis Esterhuizen – vertaling in Engels

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Louis Esterhuizenvertaal deur/ translated by Charl JF Cilliers & the author


Louis Esterhuizen

Louis Esterhuizen

Louis Esterhuizen obtained a B.A. (Hons) in Afrikaans at the University of South Africa. He taught at various schools and later became deputy principal of Pretoria Boys’ High School. In 1999 he moved to the Cape where he became department head in Afrikaans at Rondebosch Boys’ High School. Since June 2002 he has been manager of Protea Bookshop in Stellenbosch. Esterhuizen’s first volume of poems was Stilstuipe (1986). His eighth and most recent volume Wat die water onthou was published in 2010 by Protea Boekhuis and was awarded the Protea Poetry Prize in 2011. His poems have appeared in various anthologies such as Poskaarte, Die Afrikaanse Poësie in ‘n 1000 en enkele gedigte, Groot Verseboek and Nuwe Verset. Esterhuizen was also the initiator of the annual poetry festival Versindaba fo five years, which has now been taken over by Woordfees. At present he is a contributor to Versindaba, a website for Afrikaans poetry only.  




there’s nothing left for you to fear

that, too, will destroy you, like the vortex

with which the water

sucks you under and you


the hawk that has lost its grip in the wind

fanning out wider, ever wider

in the sky-blue’s seamless


while the falconer

stands somewhat perplexed, with nothing

in his hand

with which to bring

it all back


(From: Sloper, 2007: Protea Boekhuis)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)



Elegy For The Fatherland V


Earmarked for love you are,

o, land of our fathers, for love –

   so says the morning mist against the slopes,

   so says the later sun that stretches widely

   from ridge to ridge, the clouds that seamlessly

   draw nearer


Earmarked for peace you are,

o, land of our fathers, for peace –

   so says the droopy-eyed dreaming lizard,

   so says the ridge of stone stretching far

   underground, raw material binding shafts



Earmarked for joyousness you are,

o, land of our fathers, for joyousness –

   so say the mountain streams rushing down slopes,

   so say the voices of children

   free of care, the laughter as they play there

   from house to house


Earmarked for beauty you are,

o, land of our fathers, for beauty –

   so say the deepest chorals in your sea,

   so say the highest peaks

   everywhere, expanses of wild flowers open wide

   on the slopes


Earmarked with fear you are,

o, land of our fathers, with fear –

   so say the clamourings of fists outside the gates

   so say the railings and the walls

   in between, the bloodshot eyes that peer

   at us


Open-paved in suburbs

of togetherness, where we lie low –




for flagging hope 



(From: Liefland, 2004: Protea Boekhuis)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)





that a landscape of river bank and river

exists, a moment with trees

ankle-deep across the width of a photo


and mist in water’s every counter-flow

created by the oar

when the oarsman wanted to steer his thin canoe


rhythmically into the mirror image

where no increase

of speed is possible


in the frozen position

of the camera lens



(From: Wat die water onthou, 2010: Protea Boekhuis)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)





Quartz, a stone as old

as the earth, even older: passed down

from a time before time was formed

and all was water, even older: forgotten

in the scanning of stone

with something in its heart that flows,

like water, though older: spirit.


(From: Wat die water onthou, 2010: Protea Boekhuis)

(Tr. by Charl JF Cilliers)


Charl JF Cilliers  was born in 1941 in Cape Town. Initially he went into the field of electronics and lectured for 4 years. He then joined Parliament as a translator in 1968 and retired in 1998 as Editor of Hansard. His first volume of poems West-Falling Light appeared in 1971, to be followed by Has Winter No Wisdom in 1978. His Collected Poems 1960 – 2008 appeared in 2008 and The Journey in 2010. His latest volume of poetry , A momentary stay.  was published in 2011. He also published a volume of children’s poems, Fireflies Facing The Moon, in 2008. He has retired to the Cape West Coast where he continues to write.




The rain forms rust in the eyes of children

who stand begging with outstretched hands next to

the steamy odour of tarmac in the rain

and the rain takes your breath away, the breath of the wind

and all thoughts about trees lining the streets

while the shops display their products of temptation

with scantily dressed mannequins

in various frozen positions

of silence

and the rain forms rust in the eyes of children

while vehicles trickle the distance from traffic light

to traffic light, past

the slender hideaway of a bus stop, the shelter

where children sit bundled together, staring at the wind,

their thoughts, the trees, the streets,

the passing of a plastic bottle filled with glue, sniffing, sniffing,

the lines of colour, dissolving, the matters of form,

dissolving, the rhythm of water through dreamy windows,

the empty hands

around the bottlenecks filled with dope, the childish games

on the steps of the museum: Samson, yet again,

between his lofty pillars, again, the carcass of the lion

in back alleys, the riddle of that which is sweet

while in a back room, somewhere, there’s a mattress on the floor

and this girl with her eyes cast aside,

this slender vehicle of desire with her barely formed breasts,

this shadowy suspense of hair lower down,

this cleft at which the man, who is bending over her,

takes his aim with a soothing tone

and the rain, the rain, the rain,

the steamy odour of tarmac in the rain

and the rain takes your breath away, the breath of wind

and all thoughts about trees lining the streets,

thoughts about the blinding flight

of butterflies through the rusty eyes

of children

(Tr. by the author)


Drifting, afterwards


I know, love is to walk without defences

in the rain, without coat or umbrella,

without assurances


between the puddles of water, under trees –

I know, love is to walk bare faced

in the street


while time occupies itself somewhere else.

But what sound, nightly, your hand

over my body, what colour


when you hold me tightly, afterwards

and I begin to transform back into myself:

that which was excited and hard


becomes soft again, yes, everything

surrounding us changes back into a room

while my hands let go of you

and the walls


run into corners again, becoming a house

while time comes strolling down the corridor

while we listen to the rain in the gutter

outside, realising


meanwhile it has started to rain

meanwhile the darkness has shrouded itself

meanwhile the moon has disappeared


And we hold each other tight, remembering

that love is to walk without defences in the rain

without coat or umbrella


while time busies itself somewhere else –

the sound of a leaf in a stream

that hitches and shifts, hitches and


drifts, the warmth of your hand

on my body at night. This is our passport,

that I know –


but to which island

and with which boat

(Tr. by the author)






The knot without rope


The day will come, dearest, when time itself

will depart, and then we shall remember the hours

of our pastime, the playful days when we

could lie on top of each other like

a new pack of cards.


The day will come

and then you must not be afraid.


Think about the birds at the fountain

in our garden, morning’s first shimmering

in the tender folds of a leaf

and remember


those moments when we thought

that nothing ever would be lost.


The day will come

and then you must remember us

when time carries its coffined luggage

and you remain, on your own


like a knot

without memory or rope.




What is remembered by water  


that somebody of greater fame

wrote before: the wind died down

in the bay, and all around,


in all the vacancies left by fear

a hurricane ripped the sea to shreds,

but strangely enough –


in the bay the wind died down

and in that indifferent hour of day,

when everybody was busy


somewhere else, a boy

pushed his patched up dinghy

from the quay


in order to drift past the point

of concern, so that even to this day

we still fail to comprehend


how destructive the silence was

inside the bay when fright

reigned supreme


and nobody

was to be found



that nobody dared to notice

how many deaths washed up

on the hidden beach –


not the kelp, nor slush,

not the rocks, beachcomber

nor surfer noticed


how rapidly the dead

are being replaced behind

the boulders


and how


without consolation

the clattering of stones

when the tide




into the distance


that you would turn to her, sometimes,

and say: I don’t deserve you,

as if value is of any importance, and that she


would turn to yóú, sometimes, and say

I don’t deserve yóú; obviously this leads

directly to bankruptcy,


because when two parties agree

not to be worthy of each other, everything

loses value, and yet, as such,


it becomes something of immense worth –

this over-estimation of each other

in a deal of transference


when the one treats the other

with utmost consideration,

in spite of the fact


that they have mutually agreed

not to be deserving

of each other



that she lies sleeping next to you, no,

stated differently: that the sleep spreads

through her while the morning


sniffs like a dog at the door

towards the two of you, no, stated differently:

while the morning idles outside


the window, no, stated differently: the window

as the porthole through which you

look out to sea, the horizon folded out


while she is still sleeping and you, already

awake, no, stated differently:

to look out at the floating light


no, stated differently:

the immensity of silence

while she still



towards you

without any fear


 (Tr. by the author – 2009)