Moederken

't En is van u
hiernederwaard,
geschilderd of
   geschreven,
mij, moederken,
geen beeltenis,
geen beeld van u
   gebleven.

Geen teekening,
geen lichtdrukmaal,
geen beitelwerk
   van steene,
't en zij dat beeld
in mij, dat gij
gelaten hebt,
   alleene.

o Moge ik, u
onweerdig, nooit
die beeltenis
   bederven,
maar eerzaam laat
ze leven in
mij, eerzaam in
   mij sterven.

Guido Gezelle (1830–1899)
Uit: Verzameld Dichtwerk,
Antwerpen-Amsterdam,
1980-1991
If one were approaching Moederken in English with no knowledge of Guido Gezelle one might be charmed by the late-Romantic tone and tender, filial attachment to the mother, even after death. The poem appears to bear closer kinship to Longfellow and the retro Pre-Raphaelites than Gezelle's pace-setting contemporaries, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Whitman or Browning.

Reading the poem one might also wonder why the English grammar often appears contorted and backwards in many of the versions. Are the translators following the grammatical inversion of an old-fashioned original, or have they themselves introduced the inversion, perhaps straining for a rhyme scheme or wrestling with the challenging sentence structure and the many cumulative sub-clauses? If the latter is the case, this should, of course, never occur. Rhymed and metered poetry is the most difficult to translate. It has the tendency to magnify any shortcomings in the translation.

The most successful translations of Moederken mirror the musicality of the original; the rhyme, rhythm, alliteration (primarily Gs in the questioning first half of the poem, giving way to Bs in the resolution later), the assonance (most tellingly the Dutch ‘ee’ sound) and also the repetition, which taken together create an incantatory effect, and form a moving and compelling address to the mother (underlined by the caesura ‘mij, moederken’ in verse one).

There seemed to be no clear winner this time, but Erik Honders and Gerard Forde are sharing the honour of being next in line.

Paul Evans
For the jury.
Mother dear

O mother dear,
down here below,
in writing, clay
   or paint,
no portrait, print
or statuette
of you with me
   remains.

No drawing and
no photograph,
no chisel work
   in stone,
none but the print
you left behind
deep down in me
   alone.

O may I,
undeservingly,
this image not
   degrade,
may worthily
it live in me
and worthily
   there fade.

Translation: © Erik Honders, 2010
Mother mine

There is of you
here on this earth,
no painting or
   engraving,
my, mother mine,
no effigy,
no sign of you
   remaining.

No sketch in ink,
no photograph,
no rendering
   in stone,
save that imprint
in me, that you
have left behind,
   alone.

Oh may I, your
unworthy son,
that image never
   tarnish,
but let it proudly
live in me,
and proudly in
   me perish.

Translation: © Gerard Forde, 2010
Mother dear

No image of you
has survived
on earth, in words
or paint,
for me, my mother dear,
no picture,
no image has
remained.

No drawing and
no light imprint,
no sculpture made
of stone,
except the imprint
that you left
on me, in me,
alone.

O may I, yours
unworthy, never
let this image
tarnish,
but let it live
in me in honour,
in honour let
her vanish.

Translation: © Christian Schmitt, 2010
Sweet mother

Here below
nothing of you
remains,
   no painting
nor printed word
my sweet mother,
no image,
   nothing.

No portrait,
no photograph,
no carving in stone.
   I hold
the only likeness
here within me,
this only is left
   of old.

May I never
sully the image,
never be unworthy,
   but sanctify
this likeness
as it lives in me,
and in honouring
   let it die.

Translation: © Christina van Melzen, 2010
Little Mother

There is of you
down here below,
in writing or
   in paint,
no trace for me,
my little mother,
no likeness now
   remains.

No pencil sketch,
no photograph,
no chiselled work
   in stone,
unless it is
the face that you
have left in me
   alone.

Oh that I may,
of you unworthy,
that likeness not
   belie,
with honour let
it live in me,
with honour in
   me die.

Translation: © Em Angevaare, 2010
MOTHER, DEAR MOTHER

Nothing is left of you
down here,
either written
   or portrayed,
mother, my mother,
no image of you,
no picture of you
   has stayed.

No camera play
has captured you,
no sketch,
   no sculpted stone,
only your image,
carved
in me, is left,
   and that alone.

I hope I'll always
live up to
that image
   I hold high,
your legacy
honoured in
me, and honoured
   till I die.

Translation: © Judith Wilkinson, 2010
Mother

There is for me
down here below
no likeness of you,
mother,
no portrait done
in paint or ink.
nothing
to gaze upon.

No drawing
and no photograph,
no image
hewn in stone,
there is just
the imprint you have left
behind
on me, your son.

Oh that I may keep
the imprint pure
I, your unworthy child,
that it may live
and die in me
with the grace
you once
bestowed.

Translation: © Josephine Vincent, 2010
Mother Dear

No trace of you
down here below
in paint or ink
   is left
me, mother dear:
of all portraits,
pictures of you
   I'm bereft.

No drawing,
no old photograph
or statue carved
   in stone,
except the picture
that you left
within my heart,
   alone.

May I never,
unworthy of you,
let that portrait fade
   from my eye,
but let it with honour
live in me,
with honour in
   me die.

Translation: © Paul Vincent, 2010
Mother Mine

I have of you,
oh mother mine
no picture left,
no impression
of you in wood
or otherwise
have I in my
possession.

No simple sketch,
no photograph,
no stone carved
resemblance,
the only thing
I keep of you
in me is your
remembrance.

To God I pray
please give me strength
to honour your
blessed vision,
to keep it safe
in me till death,
delivered from
derision.

Translation: © Bert Keurentjes, 2010
Dear Mum

There is on earth
no portrait left,
by painter or
   by bard,
no image here
of you, dear Mum,
no plaque engraved
   or carved.

No sketch of you,
no photograph,
no chiselled bust
   of stone;
there is, though, what
you left in me –
that image, that
   alone.

O may I not
deface this gift
and show the world
   a lie;
but, honoured, let
it live in me,
and, honoured, in
   me die.

Translation: © Myra Heerspink Scholz, 2010
Little Mother

There isn't
here below,
in portrayal
of any kind,
for me, little mother,
no likeness,
no picture of you
left behind.

No drawing,
no photograph,
no chiselling of
stone,
but for that image,
that you placed in me,
alone.

Ah, may I,
unworthy of you,
never mar
that picture, I portray,
but let it in reverence
live in
me, in reverence
pass away.

Translation: © Elisabeth Innemee, 2010
Mother dear

There is of thee
here on this earth
no portrait or
   written word
of thee, mother dear,
no image for me,
no picture
   that remains.

No drawing nor
any photograph,
no carving
   out of stone,
all that is left
in me, of thee,
is thy image,
   that alone.

O may I never,
unworthy of thee,
impair that
   image pure,
but worthy let
her live in
me, and worthy
   die in me.

Translation: © Frans Kooymans, 2010
Dear Mother

There's not a thing
Down here on earth,
That's written or
been painted,
dear mother mine,
No imagery,
No view of thee
Remaining.

No painting or
Daguerreotype,
No sculpture that's
remaining,
But for the you
That's carved in me
which you have left
Remaining.

Oh please let not
unworthy me
spoilt or taint
That imagery,
But chastely let
Her live in
Me, chastely
pass in me.

Translation: © Valentijn van Hal, 2010
Mother dear

Mother dear
Of you
on this earth here
no image was left

Not one is kept
No lithograph
No painted canvas
of all portraits I am bereft

No sketch
no pictograph
not a sculpted
stone,
Save the picture
you left in me,
that one alone

Oh I, not worthy
of thee,
yearn it be the image
I will forever see,
May I take it
honourably upon
my death with me.

Translation: © Miriam Tessens, 2010
Mother dear

Nothing of you
down here on earth,
has been painted or
   portrayed,
to me, mother dear,
no picture,
no statue of you
   has stayed.

No drawing,
no visible impression,
no work chiseled
   out of stone,
nothing but that image
in me, that you
have left,
   alone.

O may I, you
unworthy, never let
that image
   decay,
but honourably let
it live in
me, honourably
   pass away.

Translation: © Leonie Pauw, 2010
DEAR MOTHER

And 'tis of you
here on this earth
in paint or
   written word,
for me, dear mother,
no effigy,
no likeness of you
   endured.

No drawing,
no photograph,
no statue cleft
   from stone,
but the likeness
in me, whom you
have left,
   alone.

Oh may I, of you
unworthy, never
tarnish that
   effigy,
but honorably leave
her live in
me, honorably die
   in me.

Translation: © Jolanda Alkemade, 2010
Dear Mother

Of you there is,
here on earth,
engraved or in paint,
for me, dear mother
no portrait,
no image of you
that has remained.

No drawing,
no picture,
no carved piece
of stone,
but only the image you left,
inside me, alone

Oh please may I,
unworthy, never let
that image fade on me,
but let it live in me
in virtue, and die with me
in decency.

Translation: © José ter Mors-van Ostaden, 2010
Sweet Mother

There has been left
me here below,
in writing or
   in paint,
no picture of you,
mother dear,
no image that
   remains.

No drawing, no
daguerreotype,
no bronze or
   statuette,
there's only deep
inside my heart
this image that
   you left.

O, that not I,
unworthy, e'er
that image may
   defile,
but sweetly let
it live inside
me, sweetly in
   me die.

Translation: © Renée Delhez, 2010
Motherknown

In this world
you
are painted
or written,
in me, mother, you're known;
imageless,
imaging
you.

I'm without
stone
that's chiselled,
no light that's
trapped and pressed into time;
they see you
within me
alone.

Unworthy
I
pray I may
not besmirch
this picture made of you;
live nobly
in me nobly
die.

Translation: © Chris Wilson, 2010
Mother

And 't will be thine
as seen below
in writing or
   in painting
me, oh mother,
no effigy
no image thine
   remaining

no portrait drawn,
no photograph,
no sculpture so
   refined
and 't is in me
that vision, all
which thy did leave
   behind

Oh, that I, thee
unworthy, that
image never
   should defy,
but worthy in
me, let her live
and worthy
   in me die.

Translation: © Roos van de Wardt, 2010
Mother-mine.

There is of you
here down on earth
no painting or
   a naming,
oh mother-mine,
for me no print
or trace of you
   remaining.

No picture drawn,
no lithograph,
no chiseled work
   of stone,
but for that print
in me you left
that stays in me,
   alone.

Unworthy me
may never spoil
but rather will
   endeavour
to honour this
in life and death,
honour this print
   forever.

Translation: © Frans Lohman, 2010
Dear Mother

There has of you
down here on earth,
either in ink or paint,
for me, dear mother,
no portrait,
no image of you
remained.

There is no drawing,
no picture print,
no sculpture
made of stone,
there is a vision
within me,
that you have left,
alone.

Oh may I, you
unmerited,
never spoil
that memory,
but respectfully
let her live in me,
gracefully
die in me.

Translation: © Anna M. Klimstra, 2010
Mother

Bereft of you
is all this world;
no portrait, framed
   or graven,
is left me, dear
mamá, no trace,
no image un-
   der Heaven.

No penciled sketch,
no light-imprint,
no chiselwork
   in stone,
save this: the form
you left in me,
your image in
   my own.

O may I never
fail you! lest
that image be
   betrayed;
but may it live
in honor in me
and honored in
   me fade.

Translation: © Greg Foster, 2010
Mother Dear

't is of you
no likeness here
one painted,
words retained,
with me, dear Mum,
no picture and
no effigy
remained.

No drawing and
no photograph,
no image
carved in stone,
except the view
by my own eyes
you left me
with alone.

O may I, yours
unworthily,
not ever ruin
this face,
but let it live
and die in me
in honour and
in grace.

Translation: © Andreas Grün, 2010
Sweet mother

Of you
down here below,
not in oils
   nor quatrains,
my, sweet mother,
no portrait,
no portrayal of you
   remains.

No drawing,
no photograph,
no carving
   in stone,
only that image
in me, that you
have left,
   alone.

O May I,
not worthy of you,
never let that portrait
   decay,
but truly let
her live in
me, with honour
   pass away.

Translation: © Susan de Sola, 2010
Mother Mine

Of you remains,
O mother mine,
No keepsake here to show.
No likeness penned
In word or stroke
Is left to me
Below.

No drawing, no
Daguerrotype
No chiseled work of stone,
Save th'image
You engraved in me,
For me to keep
Alone.

O let me keep it pure, this print,
Unworthy of you am I.
Hon'rably may
It live in me,
Hon'rably in me
Die.

Translation: © Maria Sherwood-Smith, 2010
Mother dear

And here below
there's nothing now
in painted form
   or written
to show your image
as you were,
mother, when you
   were living.

No photograph,
no pencil sketch,
no chisellings
   in stone,
except perhaps
the portrait which
you left in me
   alone.

Unworthy though
I am of you,
may I never spoil
   that image,
but honoured
let it live in me,
to die with me,
   undamaged.

Translation: © Antoinette Fawcett, 2010
Mother Dear

They've made of you
here down below
no portrait, written
or in paint,
no effigy
or statue of
you, mother, has
remained.

No drawing and
no photograph,
no carving made
of stone,
just a single
image you have
left, left in me
alone.

Oh may I not
dishonour you
and mar this
image of thee,
but let it
honourably
live in me and
die in me.

Translation: © Pleuke Boyce, 2010
Mama

No painter's stroke,
no written word,
the earth now stands
   bereft–
There is, Mama,
no picture, no
dear image of
   you left.

No print endures,
no photograph,
no chiseled work
   of stone,
save for the mark
that you have left
behind in me,
   alone.

I pray that I,
unworthy soul,
the image will not
   tarnish–
With honor let it
live in me, with
honor in me
   perish.

Translation: © Sari Cunningham, 2010
Mother

There is of you
here netherward,
in drawing or
   in painting,
for me, mother,
no impression,
no image of you
   remaining

No depiction,
no cast of light,
no carving
   of stone,
save that image
in me, that you
left behind,
   alone.

May I, of you
unworthy, never
let that memory
   decay,
but let her nobly
live inside
me, nobly in
   me fade away.

Translation: © Suzanne Roberts, 2010
   Mother

There's nothing here
on earth of you
in paint or words
   for me,
no stone inscribed,
nor cameo
recalling you
   to me.

No portrait sketched,
nor photo graph,
no image carved
   for me,
unless it is
that one within
bequeathed by you
   to me.

Oh never may I,
unworthy of you,
that image spoil
   in me,
but unblemished,
let it live,
unblemished die
   with me.

Translation: © Maureen O'Toole, 2010
Dear wee Ma

As here below
there is of you
no trace, no work of brush
   or pen,
no likeness, portrait,
dear wee Ma,
no record of you
   remains

not one drawing,
camera print,
no bust chiselled
   in stone,
and so that picture
you left in my heart
will have to stand
   alone

o may I, unworthy
of you, never
cease to hold that
   image high,
that it may live in me
with honour
and with honour
   in me die.

Translation: © Sarah Greeves, 2010
Mother dear

There is of you
down here below
in painting nor
   in writing
no likeness and
no portrait
of you, mother, to
   delight in.

No drawing,
no daguerreotype
no sculpture
   hewn in stone
unless it be
the image left
by you in me
   alone.

O may I,
you unworthy,
that image
   ne'er defile
but nobly let it
in me live
and nobly
   in me die.

Translation: © Barbara Cowan, 2010
Dear Mother

What's left of you
in paint or print
down here on earth
for me?
No trace of you,
dear mother, no,
of you no
effigy.

No pencil sketch,
no photoplate,
no sculpture hewn
from stone;
only that trace
you left behind
in me, and that
alone.

May I, unworthy
of you, never
let that image
spoil,
but bear it
fittingly through life,
fittingly
to the soil.

Translation: © David McKay, 2010
Mother Dear

There is of you
for me on earth,
in painting nor
   in writing,
my mother dear,
no image nor
a view of you
   for sighting.

No drawing nor
a phototype,
no chiseled work
   in stone,
but for that view
you've left in me,
in memory,
   alone.

Oh may I, your
unworthy son,
ne'er spoil that
   soothing view,
let live in me
and die in me
the only view
   that's true.

Translation: © Jan Van Maele, 2010
Mütterlein

Es ist von Dir
auf Erden hier
gemalt oder
geschrieben,
mir, Mütterlein,
kein Bildnis und
kein Bild von Dir
geblieben.

Nicht Zeichnungen,
auch Fotos nicht,
nicht Meißelwerk
aus Steine,
sei es das Bild
in mir, dass Du
vererbt mir hast,
alleine.

O möge ich, Dir
unwürdig, nie
dieses Bild
verderben,
doch ehrsam lass
es leben in
mir, ehrsam in
mir sterben.

Translation: © Andreas Grün, 2010