Zie je ik hou van je,
ik vin je zoo lief en zoo licht —
je oogen zijn zoo vol licht,
ik hou van je, ik hou van je.

En je neus en je mond en je haar
en je oogen en je hals waar
je kraagje zit en je oor
met je haar er voor.

Zie je ik wou graag zijn
jou, maar het kan niet zijn,
het licht is om je, je bent
nu toch wat je eenmaal bent.

O ja, ik hou van je,
ik hou zoo vrees'lijk van je,
ik wou het heelemaal zeggen —
Maar ik kan het toch niet zeggen.

Herman Gorter ( 1864 – 1927 )
Uit: Verzamelde Lyriek tot 1915,
Bert Bakker,
Amsterdam,
1978
An ‘… alluring air of spontaneity …’ says one critic of Gorter's poetry. Alluring this poem certainly is but to that one must add, deceptively simple, impossible to pin down and very difficult to translate!

Begin with that first word ‘Zie’. Strictly speaking it's an imperative but in this context it's more of an invitation for the beloved to look in the direction of the rueful, comically woebegone suitor, so should it be translated ‘see’ or is there another word that will convey the ‘look at me’ message? After that first hurdle and the colloquialisms that follow, we see in the third verse a sober plaint that the lover can't merge with the beloved because she is so deeply her own woman. Then, having sown the doubt that this might after all be a poem with a serious core, in the 4th and last verse we go back to the lovey-dovey speak of the inarticulate lover.

He's playing with us, isn't he? Everything from the light, tripping rhythm, to the rhyme scheme that isn't a formal rhyme scheme at all but relies on same-word and sound replication (which works beautifully in Dutch but can it be done in English?) is play - and as the best kind of play always does, it carries an intrinsic message. At the heart of Gorter's light, lyrical charm is the painful ‘ouch!’ of love, rejection and inarticulacy.

Of all the entries struggling to convey this amalgam of charm, froth and authentic sadness, we felt that those of the 1st prize winner Susan de Sola and runner-up Erik Honders came closest to the balancing act required to keep all these elements in the air — ‘light enfolds’ the beloved in de Sola's version where the lover simply ‘still cannot say it’ and Honders never loses simplicity and pace. Congratulations to both and to those others who made such honourable attempts at this difficult task.

Kate Foley
For the jury.
You see, I love you,
so lovely and so light,
your eyes so full of light,
I love you, love you.

And your nose, your mouth, your hair,
your eyes, your throat where
your collar rests and your ear
is brushed by your hair.

You see, I'd like to be
you, but cannot,
light enfolds you, you are
just what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
I love you so awfully much,
I just wanted to say it —
But still, I cannot say it.

Translation: © Susan de Sola, 2009
You see, I love you,
I think you are so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your collaret is and your ear,
there, behind your hair, your ear.

You see, I would like to be
you, but it cannot be,
light is around you, you are
after all the one you are.

And oh yes, I love you,
so utterly I love you,
I wanted to say it all –
but I cannot, after all.

Translation: © Erik Honders, 2009
You see, I love you.
To me you are so dear, so bright —
your eyes are oh so bright.
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your throat barely
covered by your collar, and your ear
glimpsed through a curl, but it cannot be.
Encircled by light, you are
quite simply, what you are.

Oh but I love you,
I love you so much it frightens me.
I want to tell you all,
but I cannot speak.

Translation: © Christina van Melzen, 2009
Can you see I love you,
I find you so sweet and so light–
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I really love you.

Your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your little collard caresses and your ear
with your hair over.

Can you see, I wished to be
you, but it may not be,
light is all around you, you are
now just what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
I love you so tremendously,
I wanted to say it all…complete–
but I cannot say it at all.

Translation: © Melissa Godecharle, 2009
You see, I love you, love,
I think you're so sweet and so light —
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, love. I love you, love.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck, where
your collar is and your ear —
your hair falling clear.

You see, I'd like to be
you, but it's not to be,
the light is round you, you are
quite simply what you are.

Yes, I love you, love,
I love you so utterly,
I'd like to tell you in full —
But just can't tell you in full.

Translation: © Paul Vincent, 2009
See how I love you,
I think you're so dear & so light––
yr eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And yr nose & yr mouth & yr hair
and yr eyes & yr hair where
it covers yr ear
and yr neck in its collar.

See how I wd like to be
you, which cannot be,
light surrounds you, you are
as you are.

O yes, I love you,
I so fearfully love you,
the whole time I say it
I still cannot say it.

Translation: © Chris Wilson, 2009
You see I love you,
I think you're so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your mouth and your eyes and your nose
and your ears and your throat where it goes
into your collar and there,
behind your hair.

You see I long to be
you, but that cannot be,
the light surrounds you, you are
and remain what you are.

Oh yes, I love you
so terribly much, I love you.
I long to put it in words,
but know that I won't find the words.

Translation: © David Colmer, 2009
See, love you so,
feel you so lovelily light
eyes of yours so full of light
love you so, love you so.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
that ruffle is and your ear
with your hair as near.

See, felt so like being
you, but it cannot be,
light is around you, you are
still what you simply are.

Oh yes, love you so
love you frightfully so,
felt so like saying it all –
But cannot say it at all.

Translation: © Mary Oldfield, 2009
See, i love You
You're so bewitching and so bright —
your eyes shine so full of light,
i love You, i love You.

and your nose, your mouth and your hair,
and your eyes and your neck where
the crease nestling behind your ear
is caressed by your hair.

See, i want so much to be You
but that could never be
the light is all around You
You were, You are, and You'll be.

Oh yes i love You,
so much i cannot bear,
i want to say it all —
but i cannot say it all.

Translation: © Gareth Budden, 2009
See, I'm in love with you,
I think you're so sweet and so light —
your eyes are so full of light,
in love with you, in love with you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your collar is and your ear
hidden by your hair.

See I would like to be
you, but it cannot be,
the light is round you, you are
just made the way you are made.

O, I'm in love with you,
so terribly in love with you,
I wanted to say it all —
but I cannot say it after all.

Translation: © Renée Delhez, 2009
O Sweet, I do love thee,
Thou art so sweet and so light –
Thy eyes are full of light,
I do love thee, I do love thee.

And I love thy nose and mouth and hair
And eyes and thy neck is there
Where I found thy lace and hidden here
Behind thy hair is thy ear.

O Sweet, I like to be
Like thee, but it cannot be,
The light surrounds thee, thou art
Simply the woman thou art.

O sure, I do love thee,
So awful I do love thee,
I would like to tell thee all –
But I cannot tell it at all.

Translation: © Arie van der Krogt, 2009
Can't you see I love you?
You're so sweet and so bright
And your eyes shine with light.
I love you, I love you.

Your nose … your mouth … and your hair!
And those eyes! And that bit of neck where
Your hair hangs in a tress
Between your ear and your dress.

Can't you see I would love to be
Yours? But it just cannot be.
You're too good for me by far –
But that's just the way you are.

Oh yes, I love you.
I really really love you.
And I'd love so much to tell you –
But I just can't tell you.

Translation: © Dave Skinner, 2009
I love you, you see,
You're so sweet and so light –
Your eyes so full of light,
I love you, I love you, you see.

Your nose, your lips and your hair,
your eyes and your neck, right there
By your collar, and just clear
Of your hair, your ear.

I would so like to be you, you see
But that's something that cannot be,
You're in a halo of light and
You are what you are in the end.

Oh I love you, really, I do
Love you to bits, oh I do
I tried telling you how –
but I cannot say how.

Translation: © Josephine Vincent, 2009
You see, I love you
you are so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

I love your nose, your mouth and your hair,
your eyes and your throat where
that little collar sits and your ear
with your hair in front of it.

You see, I would like to be
you, but that's not to be,
the light is around you, you are
after all who you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
I love you so terribly much,
and I wanted to say it all –
but I cannot say it at all.

Translation: © Pleuke Boyce, 2009
You see I love you so
my dear for you're so light
your eyes are bright and full of light
I love you love you so

I love your nose your mouth your hair
I love your eyes your neck and how you wear
that collar sitting round your ear
beneath your hair my dear

I wish I could be you but no
it never ever can be so
your aura glows for you're a star
of course that's just the way you are

I love you yes I do
I'm so enthralled by you
I keep on trying hard to tell you so
I still can't find the words to say it though

Translation: © Patrick Corness, 2009
You see, I love you,
I think you're soo sweet and soo light –
your e y e s are soo full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your e y e s and your neck where
your collar lies and your ear
with your hair hanging there.

You see, I wanted to be
you, but that cannot be,
light surrounds you, you are
just what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
soo very much do I love you,
and a l l this I would that I could tell –
Yet none of this can I tell.

Translation: © Patricia Waddy, 2009
You see I love you,
you're such sweetness and light –
your eyes are bright with light,
I love you, I love you, I love you.

N your nose 'n your mouth 'n your hair
'n your eyes and your neck where
your collar curves 'n your ear
hidden by a curl here.

You see I'd like to be
you, but know it cannot be,
light surrounds you, you are
of course simply what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
how terribly I love you,
all that and more I wanted to say –
But it's something I just cannot say.

Translation: © Imogen Cohen, 2009
You see I love you,
I think you're so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your collar rests and your ear
covered by your hair.

You see I should like to be
you, but it cannot be,
the light is about you, you are
still but what you are.

O yes, I love you,
I so terribly love you,
I wanted to say it all –
But I can't say it after all.

Translation: © Bernard Vehmeyer, 2009
See I love you
I think you're so sweet and so light –
your eyes they're so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
And your ears and your neck where
your collar hangs, and your eyes
behind your bangs.

See I wish I was
you, but that's not how it was,
Light surrounds you, you are
after all just what you are.

Yeah, I love you,
So badly I love you,
I really wanted to say it –
But then I just can't say it.

Translation: © Jonathan Reeder, 2009
I love you y'know,
So sweet and so bright –
With your eyes full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
And your eyes and your neck where
Your collar meets your ear
And a lock of your hair.

I'd love to be you, y'know
But that just can't be so,
The brightness comes from you; we are
just who we are.

Yeah, I love you so much
I love you so awfully much,
And I so much want to tell you so
But I do not dare, y'know.

Translation: © Margaret Skutsch, 2009
You see I dearly care for you
I find you so lovable, gay–
Your eyes so bright, a brilliant ray,
I love you, I do love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
And your eyes and your neck, right there where
Your tiny collar caresses and your ear
With your hair draped so near.

I have wanted to be just like you
But that can never ring true,
The sparkled brilliance is yours, you are
Forever what you are.

Oh yes, I do love you,
I am so very fond of you,
I wanted to say it so completely–
But somehow I do not succeed.

Translation: © Stella Wittstock, 2009
you see, well I love you,
I think you're so sweet and so light
your eyes are so full of light
I love you, I love you

and your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your throat, there
by your collar, and then your ear
with your hair just here

you see, I'd so like to be
you, but it's not to be,
the light surrounds you, you are
after all the way you are

oh, yes, I love you,
I do so awfully love you,
all the things I had wanted to say –
these things, after all, I can't say

Translation: © David McKay & Orin Percus, 2009
You see, I love you so,
you're so lovable, so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you so, I love you so.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair,
your eyes, the nape of your neck
where your collar is and your ear
covered by your hair.

You see, I'd really like to be
you, but it can't be,
light surrounds you, you are
surely now what one day you'll be.

Oh yes, I love you so,
so much, I love you so,
I wanted to tell you it all –
but can't tell it after all.

Translation: © Antoinette Fawcett, 2009
See, I love you,
I think you are so lovely and bright –
your eyes so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your necklace sits, and your ear
with your hair in front.

See, I would like to be
you, but it cannot be,
the light surrounds you, you are
after all what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
I really do love you,
I would tell you all about it –
But I just cannot say it.

Translation: © Jonny Davies, 2009
You see I love you,
I find you so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your collar sits and your ear
hidden by your hair here.

You see I would love to be
you, but it cannot be,
the light is around you, you are
after all what you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
so terribly do I love you,
I wanted to completely say it –
But I cannot after all say it.

Translation: Sari Cunningham, 2009
You see I love you,
you're jus' so sweet and so light ––
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your neck where
your collar fits and your ears
under your hair, and your eyes.

You see I'd like to be
you, but that cannot be,
light surrounds you, you are
simply –– well, what you are.

O yes, I love you,
I do so terribly love you,
I wanted to get it all said ––
but I can't ever get it said.

Translation: © Maureen O'Toole, 2009
D'ye see, I love you, you're so sweet, so bright,
Your eyes so shining bright,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and the place on your neck where
it meets your collar and your ear
hiding behind your hair.

D'ye see I'd really like to be
you, but that's not possible,
it's you with the light around you, you are
simply what you just are.

Oh yes, I'm in love with you,
so dreadfully in love with you,
I wanted to tell you the whole of it,
but there isn't any way I can say it.

Translation: © Sarah Greeves, 2009
Behold, I love you,
so sweet you're to me and so light –
your eyes are so very light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your lips and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your little collar is, your ear
covered by your hair, so dear.

You see, I wished to be
you, but it cannot be,
around you is light, you are
simply always the one you are.

Oh yes, I love you,
so terribly I love you,
all of it I wished to describe –
but still I cannot describe.

Translation: © Paula Cox, 2009
Hey, look, I love you,
so bright, so very dear,
I love you, love your
eyes, so full of light, so clear

– and all of you, your nose, your ears,
your mouth, your eyes and where
your collar strokes your little throat
and looped round your ears, your hair.

Hey, look – if I could I'd be you
but I can't, 'cos all around's
the light in you that you, yourself,
so absolutely you, have found.

Yes! – I love you muchly, madly,
and ache – tho' can't – to pass
beyond my bumbling words
and speak my love at last.

Translation: © Frances Whybrew, 2009
You see, I love you,
to me you're so sweet and so light –
your eyes are so full of light,
I love you, I love you.

And your nose and your mouth and your hair
and your eyes and your neck where
your collar sits, and your ear
and your hair just here.

You see, I'd like to be
you, but that cannot be,
the light is around you, one is
after all simply what one is.

Oh yes, I love you,
I love you so terribly much.
All of it I wanted to say
but there you are: can't say it anyway.

Translation: © Barbara Cowan, 2009
Tu vois, je t'aime,
je te trouve si gentille, si léger –
tes yeux sont pleins de lumière,
je t'aime, je t'aime.

Et ton nez et ta bouche et tes cheveux
et tes yeux et ton cou
orné d'une dentelle et l'oreille
cachée par tes cheveux.

Tu vois, je voudrais être
toi, mais ce n'est pas possible,
la lumière t'entoure, tu n'es
que toi, seulement toi.

O oui, je t'aime,
je t'aime si fort,
c'est ce que j'ai voulu te dire –
Mais je ne peux pas le dire.

Translation: © Christina Guirlande, 2009