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Something different (“ietsie anders”) …

Something different (“ietsie anders”) …

I have always had a love of poetry, perhaps that which tends to be more on the romantic or emotional side. One of my favourite poems has always been Elizabeth Barret-Browning’s How Do I love Thee?, which I sincerely hope is still taught at schools today. Just in case you have forgotten how beautiful it is, here it is again.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806 -1861
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806 -1861

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,        
I shall but love thee better after death.

Although I have been married before but have been on my own ever since, I have often wondered how my life would have turned out had I perhaps met a specific woman a bit earlier, or if the husband of someone I have come to know suddenly passed away and we got together, or a thousand other possibilities, including celebrities and even movie stars (when I was still a LOT younger and filled with quite a few admittedly unrealisable delusions of grandeur!). Having been a bachelor for more than two decades (most of my spare time being dedicated to researching the origins of religion and my website), I realised that I have probably become too independent and set in my ways to be anything near an ideal partner. This realisation sparked the idea of writing a poem or two myself, with no specific person in mind, one in English, the other in Afrikaans, a language which by the way, being the language of the ‘Boer’, is systematically being eradicated by law in South Africa.

While I enjoy wine and hard liquor at times, I can think of only one or two occasions when I had become a bit intoxicated at home, by (inadvertently) consuming a bit too much while watching movies (I just love them). That experience made me realize how easily alcohol can become a refuge for those suffering anguish of any kind, whether it be betrayal by a loved one, disappointment, rejection, loneliness, remorse, guilt, having lost the will to live, or whatever. Hence, “Whiskey, My Friend”. For “Onverwags” (“unexpectedly, suddenly”) you’ll have to turn to Google Translate or become proficient in Afrikaans (not seriously, of course). Whereas I began by quoting one of the most beautiful English poems there is, I will end this “ietsie anders” by quoting two poems by one of South Africa’s greatest Afrikaans poets, Totius, who suffered the almost unbearable anguish of witnessing the deaths of two of his children, his one-year-old son who died of meningitis and his 13-year-old daughter dying in his arms after having been struck by lightning. And finally, as an afterthought, something really funny that I had come across long after having drafted this section.

Whiskey, My Friend

Of you they say such terrible things,
that you can enslave the most powerful of kings.

Yet, to me you’ve become a friend indeed,
whenever I find myself in desperate need.

You fade away my cringing blunders,
and gently too, my embarrassing fumbles.

You can take what’s wrong so far away,
make me not care if I see another day.

Only you can numb the ache inside of me,
knowing that my love for her will never be.

Oh, how I wish with all of my heart,
that someday I can tell you simply to depart.

Onverwags

Onverwags en stukkend het jy in my arms geval,
my amper laat struikel in ‘n lewe so besig-mal.

‘t Gepoog om my van jou te weerhou,
maar jou liefde het my sag omvou.

My lewe asvaal het jy helder kom beskilder,
die spoke van my eensaamheid kom verwilder.

Jou skoonheid het my sinne betower,
jou vrouwees my hart verower.

Jou oë se glans het my siel laat dans,
‘n draaiende wals, want jy was nou my als.

Hoe heerlik was dit om jou liggaam te bemin,
wetende dis jý daar binne-in.

Met hartstog het ons aan mekaar vasgegroei,
niemand het gewaarsku dat dit só sou kon bloei.

Sag en nat was jou lippe toe ons moes groet,
waar my hart eens was, nou net bloed.

Totius
Jacob Daniël du Toit (Totius) 1877 – 1953

Vir my bly van die aangrypendste Afrikaanse gedigte Totius se Pyn-Gedagte en Die Godsbesluit, wat hy gedig het nadat sy 13-jarige dogtertjie Wilhelmina deur weerlig by ‘n venster in hul huis raakgeslaan is en sy in sy arms gesterf het. Sy smart het vir Afrikaans ‘n kosbare skat geword, ‘n nalatenskap wat hy as ‘n baie godsdienstige man nie toe sou kon verstaan het nie (Die Godsbesluit), maar wat vandag vir ons meer werd is as die uiteindelik onvermydelike dood van elke individu. Ek vermoed dit is lankal in ons moderne wêreld vergete, daarom haal ek dit graag weer aan (uit Passieblomme, 1934).

 

O Die Pyn-Gedagte

O Die pyn-gedagte: My kind is dood! . . .
dit brand soos 'n pyl in my.
Die mense sien daar niks nie van,
en die Here alleen die weet wat ek ly.

Die dae kom en die nagte gaan
die skadu's word lank en weer kort;
die drywerstem van my werk weerklink,
en ek gaan op my kruisweg voort.

Maar daar skiet aldeur 'n pyn in my hart,
so, dat my lewe se glans verdwyn;
Jou kind is dood met 'n vreeslike dood!
En – ek gryp my bors van die pyn.

O Die bliksemgedagte! . . . Ja, lieflingskind,
een straal het jou skone liggaam verskroei,
maar bliksemstrale sonder tal
laat my binneste brand en bloei.

Sy was so teer soos 'n vlindertjie,
sy't lugtig omheen geswerf;
'n asempie wind kon haar vlerkies breek
en – kyk watter dood moes sy sterf!

Hoe weinig die kinders wat so moet sterf,
dis een uit die tienduisend-tal,
en ag, dat dit sy was, en ek moes sien
dat sy dood in my arms val!

O Die pyn-gedagte: My kind is dood! . . .
dit brand soos 'n pyl in my;
die mense die sien daar niks nie van,
en die Here alleen die weet wat ek ly.

Die Godsbesluit

Voor die onheilswoning en
tussen die skaars-beblaarde
soetdorings staan, in droë aarde
maar lowergroen en blink van blad,
die wag-’n-bietjie langs die pad.

Wanneer ek naderkom dan sien
ek dorings krom en reg;
‘k sien takke inmekaar gedraai
en deurmekaar gevleg.
En wil ek in die blare gryp
of aan die takke breek,
dan tas ek in ’n doringnes
wat vreeslik haak en steek.

                        *

Bo al u donker bome, o Heer,
groei my ’n enk’le reusboom uit
dit is die wag-’n-bietjie-bos
van u besluit. 
Van ver so skoon, so groen, so blink…
maar hoe verward
wanneer ek dieper kyk en dink
as wat ’n sondaar pas.
En steek ek dan my hande uit
na u besluit,
dan gryp ek in die dorings vas.

That hotel in Beijing …

Finally, amongst the millions of funnies that can be found floating on social media around the world, there is one that stood out enough for me to share it with you (end July, 2021). It was supposedly a brochure of a hotel in Beijing which had been translated directly, word for word, from Mandarin to English. However, the humour is so subtle and so well entrenched in just about every sentence of this ‘translation’, that I suspect it rather to be a humorous piece written by someone extremely well versed in the subtleties of the English language (possibly with some knowledge of Mandarin as well), under the guise of it being an English translation of a Chinese brochure. If this hotel and its brochure actually exist, and I should one day happen to find myself in Beijing, I will most definitely take them up on their undertakings (pun intended).

Beijing Hotel Brochure (Anonymous)

Getting There:

Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

The Hotel:

This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

The restaurant:

Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

Your room:

Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity! You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts [I have to confess, I had to look up the meaning of this word – hilarious!].

Bed:

Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas [!] please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

Above all:

When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope [regrets?]. You will struggle to forget it.

Riaan Booysen - 23 Januarie 2021

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