Het carillon

Ik zag de mensen in de straten,
hun armoe en hun grauw gezicht, –
toen streek er over de gelaten
een luisteren, een vleug van licht.

Want boven in de klokketoren
na 't donker–bronzen urenslaan
ving, over heel de stad te horen,
de beiaardier te spelen aan.

Valerius : – een statig zingen
waarin de zware klok bewoog,
doorstrooid van lichter sprankelingen,
'Wij slaan het oog tot U omhoog.'

En één tussen de naamloos velen,
gedrongen aan de huizenkant
stond ik te luist'ren naar dit spelen
dat zong van mijn geschonden land.

Dit sprakeloze samenkomen
en Hollands licht over de stad –
Nooit heb ik wat ons werd ontnomen
zo bitter, bitter liefgehad.

Oorlogsjaar 1941

Ida Gerhardt (1905 – 1997)
Uit: Verzamelde gedichten,
Atheneaum–Polak & van Gennep,
Amsterdam, 2010
Gerhardt’s Carillon has the pace of a short story in brief. Set in the war year of 1941, as the postscript so importantly informs us, Gerhardt evokes the mood of occupied Europe under the Nazi heel, before the entry of the Americans into the war, when there was truly little hope to be found.

Many soldiers and civilians have told of the profound transfiguring effect of a particular song as they huddle round a radio: Lili Marlene or the BBC’s wartime tones of Beethoven’s 5th, broadcast to the French resistance, which spell out V for Victory in Morse code.

Gerhardt’s catalyst for a sea change of optimism, gliding over the faces in the street, is a song by Valerius: a patriotic tune from the 80 Years War against the Spanish, and a favourite of the Dutch resistance in WW II.

The final two verses, depicting a new spirit and profound sense of loss (of liberty) are almost worthy of a wartime Pathé propaganda film. Some translators didn’t translate the postscript; without it the poem is incomprehensible.

The judges felt that Myra Scholz produced the best translation. Her third verse depends on the American pronunciation of ca-rill-on to preserve the meter, rather than the British car-rill-ion. The judges awarded second prize to Andrew Hewitt & Nienke de Maat. Their translation is, of course, a marked and daring structural deviation from the original. Jos Welie also produced a very fine translation.

Paul Evans
For the jury.
The Carillon

I saw the people in the streets,
a poor and plodding, grey–faced sight –
but then a sudden listening
brushed over them, a hint of light.

From in the tower, where a dark
bronze bell had tolled the time of day,
the city filled with floating sounds
the carillonneur began to play.

Valerius – the heavy bell
sang out with solemn majesty
while brighter notes were sprinkled through:
‘We lift our eyes, O Lord, to Thee.’

And one among the nameless many,
I pressed against a house to stand
and listen to this carillon
that sang of my deep–wounded land.

This speechless gathering, the city,
the light of Holland spread above –
I never felt our loss so keenly,
or with such bitter, bitter love.

Anno Belli 1941

Translation: © Myra Scholz, 2011
The Carillon

When the mighty gongs
That burst from the high tower
Where the arm of bronze
Swung and told the hour

Had dwindled and were gone
And stealing over the town
Came the sweet chimes of Valerius
Played on the carillon,

I saw the ashen faces
Of the people in the street
Lift, and glow to life like embers
Fanned by a stray wing–beat.

As rainfall gently sprinkles
The dry and barren slope,
So dropped the joyful ringing
‘…whence cometh our hope…’

And the silent crowd below,
And the ringing sky above;
Never had I felt our loss
With such a bitter love.

in time of war – 1941

Translation: © Andrew Hewitt & Nienke de Maat, 2011
The Carillon

I saw them going, anxious paces,
haggard townsfolk, poor and pale, –
a sudden listening lit their faces,
lifted up their somber veil.

For high inside the belfry tower
yet audible from far away,
upon solemnly tolling ev’ry hour,
the carillonnist began to play.

Valerius: – a stately singing
of mighty bells that marked the chord
while lighter chimes were brightly ringing,
‘We gaze on high at you oh Lord’

And one amongst the nameless mass,
while squeezed against some house, I’ld stand
and listen to this song in brass
that told of my tormented land.

All bosomed by a fair Dutch sky
this quietly gath’ring citizenry –
oh, what was taken from us, did I
ever love so bitterly.

War Year 1941

Translation: © Jos Welie, 2011
The Carillon

I saw them in the public places,
looking impoverished and greyed –
then, across people’s daily faces
intent illumination played.

From the high tower it drifted down:
the dark–bronze tolling died away
and, audible throughout the town,
the carillon began to play.

Valerius: such stately singing
in which the heavy bell held sway,
interspersed with lighter ringing.
‘We raise our eyes to Thee and pray.’

As one among a nameless crowd,
jammed against walls I had to stand
listening to music that sang aloud
songs of my desecrated land.

This silent urban togetherness,
which the Dutch light seemed to endorse –
triggered in me the bitterest tenderness
for what we’ve been stripped of by force.

1941, Wartime

Translation: © Paul Vincent, 2011
The Carillon

I saw the people in the streets,
their need, their faces grey and thin, –
then, on their countenances, fleets
a radiance, a listening in.

For up in the belfry, after the hour
was being struck, so bronze and brown,
there now begins the carillonneur,
his tolling heard all over town.

The Old Songbook: – the chants ornate,
the big bell swaying in the sky,
strewn through with tones that scintillate:
“To Thee, oh Lord, I lift mine eye.”

And one among the nameless crowd,
now pressed close to the houses’side,
I stood and listened to the loud
bells singing of my land defiled.

This gathering, so speechlessly,
this town in such a Dutch light drenched –
never was what from us they wrenched,
so sorely, sorely dear to me.

(War year 1941)

Translation: © Peter Verstegen, 2011
The carillon

The people in the streets looked stricken,
their ashen faces drawn and tight, –
then something made their features quicken
and, listening, they seemed brushed with light.

For in the clock–tower when, resounding,
the bronze–chimed hour had died away,
the carillonneur began his pounding
and everywhere was heard to play.

Valerius: – a solemn singing
with bass bell’s tolling undertone
and flickerings of lighter ringing:
‘We raise our eyes to Thy high throne.’

As one of all those nameless people
who by the house fronts came to stand,
I listened to the pealing steeple
that sang of my afflicted land.

This speechless gathering, beyond us
the city with Dutch light above –
I’ve never for what’s stolen from us
felt such a bitter, bitter love.

Translation: © John Irons, 2011
The carillon

I saw the people in public places,
resigned and poor, their faces grey, –
then something brushed across these faces:
a listening, a golden ray.

High in the belfry of St John’s
for all the town to hear that day,
when bells had told the time in bronze,
the carillon began to play.

Valerius: – a solemn singing
in which the big bell moved the skies,
with sparkles spangled, lightly ringing,
‘My Lord, to thee we lift our eyes.’

Among the nameless many there
on crowded pavements, faces raised,
I stood and listened, as the air
sang how my country was debased.

It was a speechless get–together –
the town, the Dutch light from above –
For what was robbed from us I’ve never
felt such a bitter, bitter love.

War Year 1941

Translation: © Erik Honders, 2011
The carillon

I saw them in the streets, downcast –
the people, poor, their brows drawn tight –
then over the ashen faces passed
a listening, a wisp of light.

For after the belltower stirred
with the dark–bronze time of day,
the whole of the city heard
the carillonneur start to play.

Valerius: – a stately singing
in which the heavy clock was guide
to lighter peals of sparkling ringing,
“We raise the eye to You on high.”

And one among the nameless hordes
assembled on the cobblestones,
I stood and listened to the chords
that sang of my encumbered home.

This speechless gathering together
and that pale Dutch light above –
for what was stolen, I have never
felt such bitter, bitter, love.

Translation: © Sadiqa de Meijer, 2011
The Carillon

I saw the people on the pavements,
their want and their worn faces grey, –
when, featherly, it touched the faces:
a listening, a golden ray.

‘Cause high up in the grand clock tower,
–it could be heard till far that day–
after the striking of the hour,
the carilloneur began to play.

Valerius: – a solemn singing,
the heavy bell forming a chord
together with a brilliant tinkling,
‘We lift our eyes to Thee, Oh Lord.’

Anonymous amongst the many
that gathered there –an unseen band–,
I listened to this pleasant playing
that sang about my tortured land.

This speechless meeting and this brightness
enlightening the town in war –
Ne’er have I loved what’s been stolen from us
so bitterly, bitterly ever before.

War year 1941

Translation: © Annelies Huisman, 2011
The Bells

I saw the people in the street,
Their poverty and ashen faces, –
Then their countance seemed to greet
A listening, some dawning traces.

For in the belfry up high
As the deep hour chimes died away
Crystal clear sounds filled up the sky,
The carilloneur began to play.

Valerius: – a noble singing
In which the big bronze bell did plea,
Showered with scintillated ringing,
‘We raise our eyes, o Lord, to Thee.’

One among many, hugging the wall
All I could do now was just stand
Here, listening to this call
That sang of my poor ravaged land.

This wondrous and speechless meet
Under Dutch light that shone on me –
Our stolen land under my feet
I never loved so bitterly.

War year 1941

Translation: © Rob Oostenrijk, 2011
The Carillon

Ashen with misery
people pass in the street –
when I see a shimmer of hope
in their eyes, like a response.

From the bell tower
the dark–bronze hour has struck –
and the carillonneur plays
his message to the city.

A solemn hymn, Valerius:
“Unto thee I lift up mine eyes”.
Clear sparkling chimes set off
the bourdon’s heavy sound.

Propped against a wall
I stand with the nameless
to listen to the music
that sings for my ravaged land.

I am part of a communion,
silent under this northern sky –
never have I felt so keenly
my love for what we lost.

In the Year of War 1941

Translation: © Elsa Fischer, 2011
The Chimes

I saw the people on the roadway,
their misery, their ashen brows,
then, as they listened, a soft ray
set their countenances aglow

For high up in the bellfry
once the bronze strikes died away
audible for all in our city
the carilloneur began to play

Valerius – a solemn ringing
in which the heavy bell would rise
speckled with a brighter singing
‘To Thee dear lord, we lift our eyes’

As one among the nameless throng
pressing back towards the terrace
I stood still and listened to this song
about our country being menaced

As we gathered with no words to say
as Dutch light caressed our city
all that had been taken in the fray
I’d never loved so bitterly

War year 1941

Translation: © Josee Koning, 2011
The Carillon

I saw the people in the street,
their deprivation, faces drawn,
when flickered over their defeat
a stirring sound, a chink of dawn.

From far above, in the clock tower
after the deep bronze hourly chime,
the bell ringer began to shower
the town with a different kind of rhyme.

Valerius:  a powerful tune
In which the heavy bell does vie
with lighter tones, more brightly strewn,
“We cast our eyes to Thee on high”.

As one among the nameless throng,
that crowded by the houses stand
I stayed and listened to this song,
this heirloom of my broken land.

And felt the voiceless unity
and saw the Dutch light o’er the town
and loved, so bitter, bitterly
all that which once had been our own.

Translation: © Margaret Skutsch, 2011
The carillon

I saw the people on the sideway,
their poverty, their faces grey, –
when suddenly, a trace of light lay
across the prick–eared face array.

For upstairs, where the belfry towered,
when dark–bronze had the bell been chimed,
the carillon’s player showered
all of our city, listening, primed.

Valerius: – a stately singing,
through which there moved the heavy bell,
while even brighter sparks were springing,
“Let’s all to You our eyes raise well.”

And one among the nameless many,
been pushed against the house’s wall,
I listened to this play worth seeing
about my country kept in thrall.

This voiceful speechless Dutch convention
and Holland’s light all over town –
Such bitter love, while in detention,
I’ve never felt for what’s cut down.

Year of war 1941

Translation: © Andreas Grün, 2011
The Carillon

Through streets I saw the people going
in poverty, their faces grey,—
then upon those faces growing
attentiveness, a sudden ray.

For when the clock had struck the hour
the carillon began to play
high above in the old bell–tower,
the chimes heard near and far away.

Valerius, a noble singing:—
the massive bell that swings and vies
with intertwining lighter ringing,
‘To Thee we all lift up our eyes.’

Among the nameless people thronging
united on a patch of ground,
I stood to listen to this playing
that sang of my dear ravaged land.

This speechless gathering together,
the light above the town so Dutch—
what they stole from us I’ve never
so bitterly loved, oh loved so much.

War Year 1941

Translation: © Maureen O'Toole, 2011
Das Turmglockenspiel

Ich sah die Menschen in den Gassen
in Armut, grau war ihr Gesicht, –
da strich wohl über die Grimassen
ein Hören, und ein Anflug Licht.

Denn in dem Glockenstuhle oben
tief–bronzen es geschlagen hatt’,
da hat das Glockenspiel erhoben
die Stimme durch die ganze Stadt.

Valerius: – ein stolzes Singen,
in dem bewog das Glockenwerk;
noch heller sollt’ der Funke springen:
“Auf Dich richt ich mein Augenmerk.”

Und unter namenlosen vielen,
gedrängt gegen die Häuserwand,
da stand und lauschte ich dem Spielen,
das sang von dem geschund’nen Land.

Dies sprachlose Zusammenkommen,
die Stadt, mit eignem Licht begabt,
nie hab ich, was uns ward genommen,
so bitter, bitter liebgehabt.

Kriegsjahr 1941

Translation: © Andreas Grün, 2011