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