De Dapperstraat

Natuur is voor tevredenen of legen.
En dan: wat is natuur nog in dit land?
Een stukje bos, ter grootte van een krant,
Een heuvel met wat villaatjes ertegen.

Geef mij de grauwe, stedelijke wegen,
De' in kaden vastgeklonken waterkant,
De wolken, nooit zo schoon dan als ze, omrand
Door zolderramen, langs de lucht bewegen.

Alles is veel voor wie niet veel verwacht.
Het leven houdt zijn wonderen verborgen
Tot het ze, opeens, toont in hun hogen staat.

Dit heb ik bij mijzelven overdacht,
Verregend, op een miezerigen morgen,
Domweg gelukkig, in de Dapperstraat.

J.C. Bloem ( 1887 – 1966 )
Uit: Verzamelde Gedichten I,
Atheneaum-Polak & van Gennep,
Congratulations to all the entrants who dared the difficult task of translating this sonnet with its strict rhyme scheme and metre into modern English, while attempting to retain its original flavour of irony and ‘Dutchness’.

The pitfalls are many: how — or indeed if — to rhyme without loss of meaning or metre; how to manage the metre while packing in the highly condensed meaning; how to convey the irony of the first stanza and depict the stolid Dutch character of what (according to Bloem!) passes for nature in Holland; how to capture that flash of cloudscaped lyricism in the 2nd stanza; how not to over–egg or dumb down Bloem’s pondering in stanza 3; and how, oh how, do you translate ‘domweg gelukkig...’?

We all thought that first prize winner Judith Wilkinson’s ‘modest hill with modest villas’ caught Bloem’s gentle irony beautifully, while the ‘windswept way’ of her clouds expressed his lyricism well. ‘Life keeps its wonders under lock and key/Until it springs them on us, rich, complete’ is a fine entrance to the epiphany which ‘dawns’ on the poet in the last stanza.

Francis Jones, second prize winner, provides a workmanlike 1st stanza, incorporating ‘a hill’ with the necessary ‘villas strung along its side.’ (Without those ‘villas’ it’s difficult to appreciate the sly point Bloem is making.) He also does the clouds justice, as they ‘give their loveliest display/When skylights frame the sky through which they slide.’ We liked life, keeping ‘its finest wonders tightly cloaked/Then shows them, suddenly with open heart.’

I’ll end as I began with congratulations to all you strict and non–strict versifiers who made our task really rather difficult this time by producing so many flashes of insight and real poetry in your translations of this challenging poem.

Kate Foley
For the jury.
Dapper Street

Nature is for the satisfied or hollow.
And what does it add up to in this land?
A patch of wood, some ripples in the sand,
A modest hill where modest villas follow.

Give me the city streets, the urban grey,
Quays and canals that keep the water tamed,
The clouds that never look finer than when, framed
By attic windows, they go their windswept way.

The least expectant have most to marvel at.
Life keeps its wonders under lock and key
Until it springs them on us, rich, complete.

One dreary morning all this dawned on me,
When, soaking wet in drizzly Dapper Street,
I suddenly felt happy, just like that.

Translation: © Judith Wilkinson, 2008
In the Dapperstraat

Nature's for the empty or satisfied.
What's nature in this country anyway?
A stamp–sized scrap of woods, that's all today,
A hill with villas strung along its side.

So give me wharves where rivets mark the tide,
The roads of cities, building–lined and grey,
And clouds which give their loveliest display
When skylights frame the sky through which they slide.

If you don't expect much, you'll find a lot.
Life keeps its finest wonders tightly cloaked,
Then shows them, suddenly, with open heart.

One dreary, rain–swept morning, this is what
I pondered over to myself, all soaked
And simply happy, in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Francis Jones, 2008

Nature is for the blank or satisfied.
And then: what can we boast of naturewise?
A stretch of woodland, postage stamp in size,
A hill with some small houses on the side.

Give me the town roads with their greyish cast,
The harbour quays of interlocking stone
The clouds whose beauty cannot be outdone
When, skylight–framed, they all go drifting past.

Everything's much if much is not expected.
Life hides its miracles till, without warning,
They're suddenly displayed in all their art.

This on my own I thought I had detected,
Rain–sodden, on a drab and drizzly morning,
Just downright happy, in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © John Irons, 2007
City Street

Nature's for people vacant or content.
And anyway, what's left of nature here?
Woods the size of postage stamps, I fear,
Hills with some villas up for sale or rent.

Give me grey urban highways of cement,
The waterfront encased, the quaysides sheer.
The loveliest passing clouds of all appear
Framed by loft windows in a tenement.

All's a lot if you've few expectations.
Life keeps its wonders hidden from our view,
Till, suddenly, they mount their lofty seat.

I pursued these private meditations
As morning's damp and drizzle soaked me through,
Absurdly happy, in a city street.

Translation: © Paul Vincent, 2008
The Dapperstreet

Nature is for the idle or contented.
Moreover: what does nature still mean?
A bush, the size of a magazine,
With some villas on hills cemented.

I'd rather have the dull, urban lanes,
The embankment nailed in solid ground,
Clouds, at best when moving around,
Passing a rim of high window panes.

Anything is much for those without expectation.
Life keeps its mysteries hidden away
Till, suddenly, revealed as a stately feat.

I had that intimate contemplation,
Rained out, at the drizzly break of day
Childishly happy, in the Dapperstreet.

Translation: © J.C. Hellwig, 2008
In the Dapperstraat

Leave Nature to the callow and serene.
Anyway it doesn't amount to much:
A few column inches–worth of trees,
Space for houses on shapely mound of green.

Give me the slate–gray urban scene,
The brick–lined waterways, the breeze–
Borne clouds, so fine and somehow Dutch
When through a slanting skylight seen.

Life gratifies the grateful, uncloaking
Ripples of colour in drabbest stone,
And beauty of window of upstairs flat…

That's how my mind works. There I was, soaking
Wet one drizzly morning, alone
And dabbling happily in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © A.G. Hewitt & Nienke de Maat, 2008

Leave nature to the satisfied or dopes.
And then: is what is left round here much good?
Newspaper–sized, a tiny stretch of wood,
A hill, some villas clinging to its slopes.

Give me the urban roads, grey and unnamed,
The waterfront, well riveted in quays,
The clouds, as all along the sky they breeze,
Their beauty's best in attic windows framed.

Who counts on little finds it all so much.
Life hides its wonders, hidden they remain
Till, all at once, they're in their splendour shown.

One drizzly morn my private thoughts were such,
As here in Dapperstraat, all drenched with rain,
I called a simple happiness my own.

Translation: © Erik Honders, 2008

The countryside is for those who are content, or dumb.
After all, what remains wild in this land?
A scrap of woodland no larger than a page of newsprint,
Bourgeois villas sneaking up the hillsides.

I'll take the city anytime, honest grey streets,
Canals tucked tight against the quay.
Clouds never seem more beautiful
Than floating by, framed in a garret window.

There is so much when little is expected.
Life keeps its miracles close,
Until all at once, the bounty explodes.

These thoughts came to me, standing apart,
Drenched in soft morning rain,
And happy as Larry, in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Christina van Melzen, 2008
Simply content in Stanley Crescent

Nature is for the idle or contented, better still.
Of course assuming that there's any nature left:
The remnants of a wood retreating in a cleft.
Some random villas somewhere on a hill.

I prefer the bleakness of the city streets awry,
The river by its quaysides firmly tamed,
The clouds more beautiful still when framed
By attic windows, as they move along the sky.

Anything will satisfy the unexpecting kind.
Life hides its wonders without warning,
Revealing them at last in all their grand extent.

These thoughts I ruminated in my mind,
Soaked to the skin one drizzly morning,
Simply content in Stanley Crescent.

Translation: © Ruud Maltha, 2008

Nature is for the idle or contented.
And then: what's to be found here, naturewise?
A scrap, perhaps, of woodland, post–stamp size,
A hillock with some cottages against it.

Give me the unrelieved grey city roads,
The waterside imprisoned into quays,
The clouds, at their most beautiful always
As, window–framed, along the sky they float.

Everything's much when much is not expected.
Life hides its miracles till, without warning,
They are unfolded to be marvelled at.

Along these lines I silently reflected,
Bedraggled, on a drab and drizzly morning,
Quite simply happy, in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Renée Delhez, 2008.
On Dapper Street

Nature is for the empty and the sated.
That's if there's any left here anymore:
A pocket wood perhaps or well–trod shore,
A hill on which a house is situated.

Give me the grey of pavements in the city,
Canals and rivers brickwork quays have tamed,
Clouds drifting overhead, which when unframed
By attic windows, are never half as pretty.

A little's a lot for those whose hopes were low.
Life never shows its wonders oversoon,
But suddenly — their glory all complete.

This came to me as something I should know,
Wet to the bone one rainy afternoon,
And happy, simply happy down on Dapper Street.

Translation: © David Colmer, 2008.
Dapper Street

Nature is for the satisfied or the empty
But what is left of nature in this country?
A clump of trees a foot across,
A hillock with a few houses on top

Give me the sombre city streets
The water corralled by brick and concrete,
A procession of clouds never more beautiful
Caught in the frame of an attic window

All is so much when you expect so little
Life keeps its wonders hidden away
When all at once their glory is revealed

This is what I contemplate
Damp one morning in drizzling rain
Simply happy in Dapper Street

Translation: © Gareth Budden, 2008

Yes nature suits the emptily content
What's left of nature now though hereabouts?
A patch of woodland, blink and you might miss it
A hill with little cottages tacked on

Drab streets in town are more my scene
Embankments choc–a–bloc with landing quays
The clouds are at their best when framed
In attic windows drifting slowly by

When little's sought there's always plenty gained
The miracles of life are hidden well
Then blow me down they're there in all their glory

I turned this over in my mind
One drizzly morning dripping wet but hey
Just quite content in Dapperstraat

Translation: © Patrick Corness, 2008
The 'Dapperstraat'
(the street of the brave)

Nature is for the satisfied or empties.
And then? What is nature still in this country?
A little bunch of forest newspaper sized?
A hillock with some villas against?

Give me the grey, urban ways,
the 'in quays riveted' water side.
The clouds, never as clean then as they, rimmed,
by attic windows, moving along the air.

Everything is much for who does not expect much,
life keeps its wonders hidden.
Until it, suddenly, shows them in their high state.

I considered this myself,
soaked, on a drowsy morning
simply feeling fortunate, in the 'dapperstraat.'

Translation: © Melissa Godecharle, 2008
The Dapperstreet

Leave nature to who's satisfied or who
Is idle. And, don't call it nature, please!
One silly newspaper contains more trees;
It's just a hillock for the happy few.

I like the urban roads, the traffic square
The riveted firm quay as riverside,
The clouds, so beautiful, as when they glide,
By attic windows framed, high through the air.

With no high hopes you get the highest place.
The hiding of life's miracles remain
Till you, at once, their holy greatness meet.

This kind of thinking in my mind did raise,
One drizzly morning standing in the rain,
So deeply happy in the Dapperstreet.

Translation: © Arie van der Krogt, 2008
Plucky Street

Nature is for those who have everything — or nothing at all.
But is there any nature left around here anyway?
A patch of woodland, hardly bigger than a handkerchief,
And a hill supporting a few little houses.

I prefer the grey city streets
The waterfront locked with stone quays
And the clouds which never look lovelier than when
They are blown by the wind around the gable windows.

You may not expect much but there's a lot there.
Life keeps its wonders hidden, but then,
At a stroke, reveals them in all their glory.

These are the thoughts that struck me
One drizzly morning as I made my way drenched
But madly happy down Plucky Street.

Translation: © Dave Skinner, 2008

Nature is for the empty or contented.
And more: what's left of nature in this land?
A forest so small, it fits in your hand,
A hill with against it some cottages planted.

Give me the city, with its grey tinted streets,
The waterfront to its quays tightly chained,
The clouds never as splendid as when, framed
By attic windows, along the skies they fleet.

Anything's much with low expectations.
Life's keeping its miracles hidden away
To, suddenly, show them in their noble state.

This was the sum of my contemplations,
All soggy from rain, upon one drizzly day,
Quite simply happy, here in Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Roel Appels, 2008
The street of may

Nature is meant for those empty or content.
But what is left of nature in this land?
A scrap of green the size of a print,
A hill surrounded by houses of flint.

I rather have the grey urban roads,
The waterside that keeps the boats,
The clouds, so wonderful when they cross the sky
Squared by windows in the roofs up high.

Everything is much for those expecting little.
Life hides its miracles well
Until it reveals them in a spell.

This is what I was thinking by myself.
Soaking wet, on a rainy day.
Simply happy, in the street of may.

Translation: © Lieselotte De Snijder, 2008

Nature's for the contented and those who flop
But then: what is nature in this neighbourhood?
Of the size of a paper this tiny wood
Then hills, with a few little houses on top.

Give me the grey city paths with urban flair
The quays chlinching the waterbank and the shore
The clouds, which are never higher to adore
As in windowframes, move along in the air.

All is much if expecting little of what
Life keeps of wonders hidden from all of us
Until they're suddenly for you to look at

All by myself I thought and thought about that
Soaked to my bones an a rainy morning fuss
Simply and just happy in the Dapperstraat

Translation: © Giovanna Pozzi Wiemer, 2008

Leave nature to the vacant and the vain.
And yet, what's left of nature in this land?
A thicket barely larger than my hand,
A lonely hill, a solitary plain.

I'd rather have the city's ashen streets,
The dockyards rusting by the waterside,
The clouds unmatched in beauty as they glide
By attic windows in resplendent fleets.

The meagrest hopes are royally repaid.
Life keeps its splendours safely locked away
Till all at once its lofty prize unfolds.

These images came to me while I strayed,
With sodden feet this cold and rainy day,
Beside myself with joy in East End roads.

Translation: © Gerard Forde, 2008

Let nature fill or clear some other mind.
What qualifies as nature in this land?
Some clumps of trees no bigger than newsstands,
A rise or tiny hill that's cottage–lined.

Give me urban streets of the grimmest kind,
Give me built–over, locked–up banks and strands,
Give me clouds whose cleanliness becomes grand
Only because attic–window–confined.

To those who don't expect much, much is given.
Life makes its wonders difficult to find
And then reveals them suddenly, white–hot.

That's what I thought about on my own, when,
One soggy morning, cold and damp combined,
I wandered happily on Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Chris Wilson, 2008
The Dapperstraat

Nature is for those contented or empty.
And yet: what is nature still in this land?
A bit of wooded area, newspaper size,
A hill with small villages attached.

Give me the grey, suburban streets,
The waterfront locked firmly against the embankment,
The clouds never so beautiful, than when they, framed
By attic windows, drift along the sky.

Anything is plenty for those who don't expect much.
Life keeps its miracles hidden
To then, suddenly, reveal them in their exalted state.

This I have pondered about, all by myself,
Drenched, on a drizzly morning,
Simply happy in the Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Stella Wittstock, 2008
Dapper Street

Nature is for the satisfied or empty.
You'll find it tabloid–sized in little copses,
as stage–set hillocks for suburban villas,
as pastoral idyll in this theme–parked country.

Give me the streets and freeways of the city,
water soldered fast against the quaysides,
clouds racing through the mirrors of a high–rise,
or framed by attic windows, at the height of beauty.

Abundance comes to those who don't expect it.
Life keeps all her marvels closely hidden
till they're suddenly revealed in their true state.

This was a thought I had all by myself,
soaked to the bone on a drizzly morning,
in Dapper Street, in a downright happy daze.

Translation: © Antoinette Fawcett, 2008

Nature is for the contented or vacant.
But where's the nature in our land or seas?
A postage–stamp sized stretch of trees,
A hill with a cottage or two in front.

Give me the great grey, urban streets,
The jetty–riveted waterside,
The clouds, ne'er so lovely as when, outlined
By garret windows, wafting by on the breeze.

Low expectations are easily surpassed.
Life keeps its wonders hidden away
Till it suddenly reveals them in lofty art.

This I thought to myself at last,
Drenched, on a drizzly morning one day,
Simply happy, in Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Anna Asbury, 2008
Dapper Street

Nature is for the satisfied and the shallow.
And then: what is nature in this land?
A parcel of forest the size of a newspaper,
A hill with some villas.

Give me the grey urban streets,
The waterfront riveted together with wharfs,
The clouds moving along in the air, never so splendid
As when they're framed by attic windows.

Everything is abundance if you don't expect much.
Life keeps its wonders hidden
Until it reveals them in their grandeur.

I thought about all this alone,
Drenched, on a drizzly morning,
Happy anyhow, on Dapper Street.

Translation: © Eleonore Schönmaier, 2008

Nature is for the dull or the contented.
Besides, what's left of nature in this land?
Some tiny woods, no larger than one's hand,
A hill with villas built against it.

Give me the gray roads of the cities,
The waterfront locked in its quays,
The sailing clouds, more brilliant when ones sees
Them framed by attic windows.

Anything can be a lot if little is expected.
Life tends to keep its miracles from view,
Till suddenly it shows them in their highest state.

Those were my thoughts as I reflected
One morning while it drizzled and I felt
Just happy walking along Dapper Street.

Translation: © Pleuke Boyce, 2008
The Dapper Street

Nature is for the contented or the empty.
And then: What is nature still in this land?
A patch of forest, the size of a newspaper,
A hill with some cottages against it.

Give me the grey, urban streets,
The water's edge, riveted by quays,
The clouds, never as lovely as when they, framed
By attic windows, move through the air.

Everything is much when one expects little.
Life holds its wonders in hiding
Until it shows them, suddenly, in full glory.

This I have mused about, by myself,
Drenched, on a miserable morning,
Simply happy, in the Dapper Street.

Translation: © Sari Cunningham, 2008
Dapperstraat, Amsterdam

Nature is for the idle and contented.
But then, what is left of nature in this land?
A patch of woods, the mere size of a paper,
A hill with a few villas stuck to the side.

Give me the grey and urbanized streets,
The waterside chained onto the quays,
The clouds, never as clean as when enveloped
By attic windows, moving along the sky.

All is much for whoever does not much expect.
Life keeps its wonders until there:
It reveals them suddenly at their best.

This I considered while pondering by myself,
Drenched on a drizzly and wet morning,
Just plain happy in my Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Aardbol, 2008

Nature's a cliché for those easily entertained.
In Holland? Nature? A stand of trees
no bigger than a broadsheet page,
a low–browed hill, suburban villa tamed.

Give me the constant grey of city streets,
the clank of water welded fast to bank and quay
and clouds more beautiful when framed
by attic windows than when fleet and free.

Enough becomes much when little is expected.
Life keeps its smaller marvels hidden in its sleeve
till suddenly its' miracle's enacted.

Turning this over, wet as a drowned rat
one mizzling morning, the penny dropped,
carefree and down-to-earth in Dapperstraat.

Translation: © Frances Whybrew, 2008