If Larkin is right that what will survive of us is love, perhaps humour telegraphs itself even more readily over the wires of the ages, as does an all too recognizable gripe at the human condition.
The key to translating De Génestet's ode to the Dutch weather is hyperbole and mock outrage. Many of the translators struck this tone with good effect, re–living their own rain–drenched, wind–swept trudges through our modern cities in his splenetic paddle through the waterlogged cart tracks of 19th century Holland.
The judges particularly liked ‘turns my blood to sludge’, the rhyming of clogs and frogs, and a tendency to even invent new words: ‘spit–rains’, or use the colloquial: John Irons' ‘gamps’.
Francis Jones utilised these features best in an electrifying translation. His ‘newts, galoshes, cobblers, splodgers’ is reminiscent of Larkin's ‘lecturers, lispers, losels, loblolly–men, louts’. He also wisely shifted the punch line of the poem ‘but not at my request’ to the end for maximum effect.
His success was equally evident in the title of the poem – Pique. This captures the meaning and tone of the original, and its similar French derivation succeeds in marking the cultured poet out from the other hoi polloi yomping the sodden Dutch roads.Paul Evans,