P/P | r2c | Out of an April: Dealing with the Suffering of the Past

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Rising Mist "...I do not want revenge,
but am full of bitter hurt.
The heart, so deeply disturbed,
wants to heal itself..."


a poem by Jan H. de Groot.

This week, an image not of
spring but of alpine fall, together
with a tragic and historic poem
taken from 20th century
Dutch literature.

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The guest poem for this week is a new translation from the work of the Dutch poet,
Jan H. de Groot.

In the English version of the text, I have not tried to stay within the simple six-step rhythm in groups
of four beats, nor did I make any attempt to transpose the
abab rhyming scheme. This is because I felt
that this might trivialize the dramatic point-blank character of the sound of the Dutch.

Dealing with the Suffering of the Past . . .

My primary reason for featuring such a dark poem for this second week of April
is that this is traditionally when the people of the Lowlands remember the horrible
violence and suffering of the
Second World War.

One of the central themes of the texts and photographs which compose the whole
Picture/Poems is the possibility of healing—one at a time and all at once—
of both ourselves and the culture we have created, and the vast tracts of wild earth
we have severely weakened if not destroyed.

From the point where the above photograph was made, all water flows North,
making a journey of approximately 1,300 kilometers from mountain top to the North Sea.
Along the way, what I think of as the Germanic family tree of languages
is spoken, which includes many different dialects of both German and Dutch.

That the peoples of this great and beautiful watershed but half a century ago turned
so violently against one another is a terrible fact of history. How was this possible?
The poem does not ask this question; it simply states the horrible details—
the precise time: ten o'clock in the morning; the precise location: a beautiful public
gardens I know well in the heart of Amsterdam;
and the response: righteous anger—
all of which still hover as a mist of unresolved human emotion.

Dealing with the suffering of the past is to this day difficult indeed.

(Amsterdam, 12 maart 1945, 9.15-9.35 uur)

Ik heb het niet gezien.
Men heeft het mij verteld:
Zij werden tien om tien
voor't peloton gesteld.

Men schoot ze haastig neer.
Het salvo vuur en lood
keerde tot viermaal weer,
toen waren allen dood.

En ieder, die de plek
vol schrik en pijn ontweek,
werd (slag in borst en nek)
gedwongen, dat hij keek.

en zag hoe man en kind
neerzeeg in bloed en dood,
hij werd op slag hun vrind,
hun broer en deelgenoot.

Hij vindt mij aan zijn zij,
een die niet rust aleer
hij staat voor 'n and're rij
met een gericht geweer.

Een die met vaste hand
op het commando wacht
en recht pleegt in dit land
en vuurt en vuurt en lacht.

Ik heb het wel gezien.
Ik heb het goed gehoord:
Zij werden tien om tien
in het plantsoen vermoord.

Ik ben niet wraakbelust,
maar vol van bitt're pijn.
Het hart, zo diep ontrust,
wil weer genezen zijn.

En daarom zal ik staan
met een gericht geweer.
En rustig leg ik aan
en rustig schiet ik neer.

Jan H. de Groot  
(Amsterdam, 12th of March, 1945, 9:15-9:35 AM)

I didn't see it.
Others told me about it:
They were placed before
the firing squad ten minutes to ten.

They were shot down in haste.
A sudden burst of fire and lead
repeated four times,
then all of them were dead.

And everyone, who, terrified and
full of hurt avoided the scene
was (hit in the chest and neck)
and forced to look.

and saw how child and man
collapsed in blood and death,
and instantly he was their friend.
their brother, their comrade.

I'm at his side,
and will not rest until
he stands before another row
with a pointed gun.

And with a steady hand
awaits the command
for justice in this land
and fires and fires and laughs.

I did see it.
I heard it clearly:
They were murdered, ten
to ten, in the public gardens.

I do not want revenge,
but am full of bitter hurt.
The heart, so deeply disturbed,
wants to be healed again.

And that's why I'll stand
with a pointed gun.
Quietly, I'll take aim,
And quietly, I'll shoot them down.

         (tr. Cliff Crego)


Below is a little slideshow
featuring my English translations
of Rainer Maria Rilke, presented together
with a collection of images from the Alps,
very close to where much of his later poetry was composed

Please follow r2c {Straight ROADS.
Slow RIVERS. Deep CLAY.]
on twitter . . .


"Straight roads,
Slow rivers,
Deep clay."
A collection of contemporary Dutch poetry
in English translation, with commentary
and photographs
by Cliff Crego

| See also a selection of recent Picture/Poem "Rilke in translation" features at the Rilke Archive.

See also another website
by Cliff Crego:
The Poetry of
Rainer Maria Rilke
A presentation of 80 of the
best poems of Rilke in
both German and
new English translations
biography, links, posters

| # listen to other recordings in English and German of eight poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page (# Includes instructions)
| back to r2c | back to Picture/Poems: Central Display |
Photographs and Texts © 2000 - 2011 Cliff Crego
IV.9.2000/updated IV.10.2011)