Saturday, June 6, 2009



Only in my poems can I reside,
Never I found anywhere else shelter
For one’s own hearth I never felt tender
A tent taken along by the storm.

Only in my poems can I reside.
As long as I know that I in darkness,
In urban savannah and forest that shelter
Can discover, harms me no fear.

It will take long, but the time will arrive
That before the night my aged strength is lacking
And in vain for soothing words is begging,
With which of yore I could build, and the earth’s crust
Has to store me and I bend myself down to the
Place where my burial pit cracks open in the dark.

J.J. Slauerhoff

Slauerhoff was born in 1898 and he suffered bouts of asthma. He studied medicine in Amsterdam, while a student he made a number of enemies, so it was hard to find a job in the Netherlands and he signed up as a ship’s surgeon for the VOC – the Dutch East Indies Company. He traveled around the world: Indonesia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Latin America, and Africa. He died untimely at the age of 38. Slauerhoff’s work is translated into several languages, but not into English. I translated above sonnet, the original poem had the rhyme scheme of abba/acac/addeef, I was unable to retain it. One can blame Slauerhoff of being an escapist, however, he is not. The act of writing – at least great writing – amounts eventually to immortality. The writer is resurrected again and again when we sincerely listen to his words. A grave is then never a last resting place.

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