Posts Tagged ‘Lucas Malan translations in English’

Lucas Malan – vertaling in Engels

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Lucas Malan – translated by/ vertaal deur Charl J.F. Cilliers & outeur/author


Lucas Malan

Lucas Malan

Born in Nylstroom on the 19th July 1946 in the Northern Transvaal, now known as Limpopo, Lucas Cornelis Malan was the fifth of six children born to a cabinet maker and his wife. His humble beginnings did not foretell his significant academic career or the prodigious literary success and influence he would bring to bear on the development of Afrikaans language teaching and the nation’s literature.After schooling in Pietersburg (Polokwane), Malan acquired the BA degree and Higher Education Diploma at the University of Pretoria and started teaching in Johannesburg, while reading for a BA Hons degree at the (then) Rand Afrikaans University. This was followed by a MA degree in Afrikaans poetry at the University of the Witwatersrand, and another BA Hons degree in Applied Linguistics at the Rand Afrikaans University. Finally he completed a D.Litt. on the poetry of Ernst van Heerden at the University of Pretoria in 1988.
For some 30 years Malan’s involvement as an educator of Afrikaans as a second language inspired and enlivened his contribution as a poet and compiler of several text books, and related literary texts. His poems, articles and reviews have appeared in a number of literary journals, newspapers and anthologies.
Lucas Malan has published six volumes of poetry to date – ‘n Bark vir die ontheemdes (A Barque for the Displaced Ones) in 1981; Tydspoor (Time Trail) in 1985; Edenboom (Eden Tree) in 1987; Kaartehuis (House of Cards) in 1990; Afstande (Distances) in 2002; and Vermaning (Exhortation) in 2008. Additionally, he wrote the epic meditative work Hongergrond (Hunger Ground), which appeared in 1994.
The latter deals in selected historical images and fragments with human greed and lust, political intrigue and violence as manifested throughout history and particularly in Southern Africa during the last decades of the twentieth century. His other volumes contain themes of nature, love and death as densely interwoven dominant motifs.
On the death in 1997 of Ernst van Heerden, a major literary figure on the Afrikaans poetry landscape, Malan was appointed the literary executor of Van Heerden’s estate and was bequeathed his private library. Malan donated the entire collection of Afrikaans poetry to the Poëziecentrum in Ghent.
Malan retired to the country town of Darling in the Western Cape in 1997. He died there in 2009.

In contrast to the often amorphous poetry of many of his contemporaries, Malan wrote a relatively conventional kind of verse, with fixed stanzas, rhyme schemes and metre, and with a notable precision and sensitivity as regards his selection of words. In those instances where his verse becomes freer, the unit-forming integrity is conveyed by a fine network of imagery and sound correspondences.
– J.C. Kannemeyer & Liesl Jobson  (Translated by Charl-Pierre Naudé)


8 April 2001



Slowly from outside the slanting light comes in,

pollinating rooms with a transparent dust,

bringing the vague sense that what has been neglected

must now be relinquished. No special circumstance,

alas. Just one more segment of a year you must


write off. Thus comes the short season of decay

that brings leave-takings wafting through the room.

You sense it and resign yourself, increasingly inclined

not to murmur so much about what could have been,

how infrequent joys were; what threatens peace of mind.


It’s autumn. Less and less often you toss

and turn about things left undone, time wasted.

You know by now: the greatest certainty

– throughout – was loss.


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)





The time, the year, the day – that specific day

slowly approaches; diffidently clothed

in leaves, green as the tree rustling there,

the ash tree planted ten years previously.

Single-handed, trenching with pick and shovel,

a bag of compost and every expectation

that she would anchor underground, become

a sturdy presence proffering her shade –


a many-branched shelter in which birds would sing

and insects scurry about. And now, years later,

that is what she is, the white-bark ashwood

in the corner of the plot where, given

the slope of the terrace, one less often comes.


Look to the one who shares your plot; take note

that ever more urgently her arms reach up,

how birds have gone to seek shelter elsewhere –

listen how the afternoons diminish in sound

as her shadows plummet deep into the ground. 


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)





A farmhouse, oil-filled lamps

and a frolicksome Labrador

are witness to the night wind

in the garden.


A plover calls; it’s time

for milk and bread. Against the guest

room walls ghost figures are dancing.


     In the night unfailingly

     I heard you sigh

     your longing, turning over –


A fig tree, lemon orchard’s serried ranks

blue gums beside the dam;

a morning-long respite –


     Later on the dog went

     missing, you declared,

     the fig tree was cut down.


But if you look carefully,

every evening as the sun goes down,

you’ll see the great source of our regret

tail-wagging its way home.


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)


House 1


From the deserted house comes the reproach

that it is empty now, devoid of  bustle and laughter

at bedtime and breakfast; divested of flickers of light

on glassware and amber-polished floors stands

the ramshackle building stripped of all flashes of wit –

also bereft of its sighs and deep throaty moans

in the night, it crouches low and its gaping door

mutely asks the urgent question:


will you make sure the roses are watered?


In the house that has been vacated echoes still ring

out that those who slept here were lonely

between the walls supported by the voices and names       

of those who lived in rooms with beds and blankets

and splashes of water. Now the gleaming passageways      

are darkened, a hovel that cries to the roofbeams:

I am forsaken. Listen, all

who are leaving –


and make sure that the roses are watered


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)



New Year 2007


The year has just ended, but unperturbed

a dignified moon rose again, liver spots

and all. An ochre radiance on her cheek

rained light down on the earth, proclaiming

that not one iota of her status was lost.


Only late at night would gravity drive

her morosely down into the backyard

where a mob of hangers-on had gathered;

thelayabouts who, every century or so,

can be replaced by something whose use of gas

is less than what the sun no longer will allow.


Under the moon, on the blue and green planet,

the same also pertains. As monarchs come

and go, always there will be the multitudes

who complain of their unfavourable existence,

too little done for their distress. The monarch,

as the centuries turn, remains coldly aloof. 


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)



Rock Art 2


Our forebears on this continent,

apart from calabash and eland hide,

used stone for the delineation of their thought:

caught in earthy pastel shades a pastoral scene

of a hunting party in ceremonial mien

around a campfire. A curious contingent

of figures can actively be seen


depicting history in the brush strokes of a dance.

But even stranger was the incident,

where the Brandberg rose like a solid slab,

of a woman of much lighter pigment

taking up her bow and with Penthesilean stride

giving the ponderous granite a nimble jab.


(Tr. by Charl F Cilliers, 2012)






Ensconced in Duchess Court she managed to retain
some antique furniture and a precarious dignity:
and after fifty years as midwife also the knack
of charming people. Here she preserves photographs,
old journals and her pain in specific detail.
The Royal Albert tea service (picked out
at Anstey’s as a bride) she uses only
for teas such as this – and all the snacks I made myself.
Now, this is the lounge where we will have our tea.

But let me show you something at the back
– please excuse the mess round here, I am
a dressmaker too, you know – designer stuff –
the place gets terribly untidy; and then, of course
Lindy’s always underfoot. Sit down! Now sit!
She gets so worked up, you see. And this gate
I had installed for my security. But just take a look
out there: You can almost see eternity. Now,
have you ever seen a view like that?

This gown I made for Marguerite. She came
round here this morning – Miss South Africa of ’68.
Never married, do you know? And still
as beautiful, although she’s put on weight.
Poor girl. I wonder, though . . . Oh, never mind,
that’s, after all, the way things go. Now come,
let’s have some tea. Do you know this? Earl Grey,
which Gavin brings from London, always fresh.
He’s with SAA, a gentleman and very kind –

The sun is shifting, she makes more tea. We speak
of this and that: My husband died in ’83, how sad
for me who had no kith or kin. But then, you see,
the Lord provides: my tiny Lindy here
is like a child and always such a joy. But what
is to become of her if I – She speaks, and all the while
the light around us fades. It’s getting late,
she notes, but don’t go yet! You have to see
the view at night. I go along with her to look:

Like a sea the city lies, incandescently inflamed
in outgrowths round the core, the outskirts –
like a nocuous yellow flicker along the seam
dividing elite and deprived neighbourhoods:
a Milky Way torn off by gravity. This is a place
of people, of passion and loneliness. She looks:
You know what this reminds me of? I listen
and then leave. But embedded in that metaphor
(a cemetery alight) I see an old placenta
splayed out – black and terminal with blight.


© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers & Lucas Malan
Publisher: First published on Poetry International Web, 2009






Pigeons have come to nest again. Untidily,
as they usually do. Peacefully here
on the stoep, in the latticework of a vine,
amongst leaves making themselves at home. Briefly.

They sleep now in pairs, as they should. Serenely.
Listen to the whole neighbourhood considering their fate,
our modest neighbours who can sleep safely tonight;
perhaps for the whole season, only just protected,

lightly held in half a calabash of sticks and grass.
(Who still remembers the four who were here last year?)

Here they sleep now, the soft blue-feathered ones,
able to drink all night from the wholesome Milky Way
in motionless dreams of their progeny unscathed,
whilst the Southern Cross unwaveringly plummets.



© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers
From: First published on Poetry International Web






Gradually, as the sun goes down,
the night staff clock in for duty.
Punctually the sister too, formally attired
in her uniform, wearing red epaulettes –
emblem of her authority – signs herself in
for the night shift. She smiles;
it’s what’s expected of senior personnel.

Peeks into the private ward. All going well?
she asks, endearingly unconcerned. I’m sorry,
but the nightcap will have to wait for now,
we’re detoxing you. Ticks off an item.

Shortly thereafter, pushing a trolley,
she brings medication, records the status
of the drip, maternally gesturing: Swallow it
now, you oaf; down the passage there are eight
or so more awaiting my ministrations –

and so on the night sea her patients drift away,
each in turn chemically anaesthetized
and intravenously cleansed of – snugly
taken care of for six hours at least.

Until the outside morning light licks at
the dawn’s grey membrane,
waking those asleep to feel once more
the throbbing of their wounds and be aware
of the most dreadful of horrors
waiting out there.



© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers & Lucas Malan






This genre was perfected by Rembrandt van Rijn
of Jodenbree Street who so deftly drew
flattering portraits on canvas time and again,
firstly of the wealthy, then his own likeness too.

He painted so often that proud figure there
of a preening nobleman, clothes richly hung
on his haughty frame, eyes holding all who stare
at his lustrously rendered attire. Picturesquely young.

Now, as an example, take the final two,
comparing them with any one of those:
There find a pitiful old man so close
to tears. Just concentrated sorrow confronting you.

Page through your own albums now. Note the face and profile.
How masterfully you are recreated in the Rembrandt style.



© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers & Lucas Malan
Publisher: First published on Poetry International Web, 2009






When the Zodiac revolves towards
the sign of the Bull, the nights grow still
and the earth grows cold. The rank wild grape
gradually curls up in her blush of bashfulness,
timidly casting off her ineffectual robes
of leaves. Fruitless was this vine’s year
and piecemeal she is now burning down.

The bulb, the shrub, the tree and flower
have a concern with the position of the sun;
but the smaller one, the silverling
of the night, our frivolous moon – what
ha’penny’s worth can she bring?

Ah, she titivates herself to please
the Bull. At night it’s time for humble
pie, full-rounded, and she goes her way;
as always she behaves respectfully
– as befits a fastidious lady
who knows of greater things; she who chastely
keeps waiting for the coming of the Ram.



© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers
From: First published on Poetry International Web






The murmur of the sea in a shell
is in truth – as we all know – the echo
of the push and pull of the body’s
tough and most enduring spasm.
Just a murmur, by purposeful design.

Do not take too much notice of this sound,
no matter what it says; it is merely a clue
to your candidacy – as time comes round –
for the burden-free journey across the Styx
to a realm of moon and stars far older than you.



© Translation: 2009, Charl J.F. Cilliers
Publisher: First published on Poetry International Web