Tag Archives: Translate

To be or not the bee

To be or not the bee


Let it be Rosemarie

Don’t read this, it’s meant
Just for me and not for you
Who stumbled on this poem
Just by accident.

Like Rosemarie
Who smelled a pretty red, red rose
Dreaming of her handsome sweet, sweet love
And so, was stung by a bee

Was it on her lip or on her nose?
I’ll let you guess
What became
Of Rosemarie, her love and the bee

Comme ce soit c’est fois

Ne lisez pas cela
C’est seul pour moi
Pas pour toi
Qui a arrive a ce poème
Juste par accidentellement
Comme Rosemarie
Qui sentait une rose rouge rouge
Rêver de son amour doux doux
Et a été piqué par une abeille
Était-ce sur sa lèvre ou nez?
Je vous laisse deviner



Four and twenty blackbirds

Chante une chanson de six sous,
Une poche pleine de seigle.
Quatre et vingt merles,
Cuit dans une tarte.

Quand la tarte a été ouverte,
Les oiseaux se commencé à chanter;
Était-ce pas un plat savoureux,
Pour régler devant le roi?

Le roi était dans sa maison comptage,
Compter son argent;
La reine était dans le salon,
En mangeant du pain et de miel.

La femme de chambre était dans le jardin,
Raccrocher les vêtements,
Quand le bas est venu un merle
Et picoté hors de son nez.

Blackbirds are a common in Europe and America and considered a nuisance when they gather in flocks. We go to great trouble to get rid of them. But some good must come of them.

I speak of the common blackbird, although there are certainly others such as the red-wing, grackle, raven, rook, or jackdaw. Yes, I speak of the blackbird that in autumn and winter gathers in flocks by the thousands and makes a mess of cars, tables, and porches. In the country they can be seen in the cut fields gathering what remains of the  wheat and corn; in the city they perch on telephone wires and buildings, watching, it seems, as if to descend and strike back at us for cutting down their habitat.

Who doesn’t recall Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? If we let the mind wander and soar, then I prefer Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire.

Four blackbirds

Wander I must.

Here I am in Belgium, outside Brugge, walking along the canal on the way to Damme. It is early September, a little early for the blackbirds to gather together in flocks, but someone has to put out the word.

“Four and twenty blackbirds…” goes the rhyme, first appearing in print in 1744 in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Songbook.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.


In the Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder had ma improvise when pa shot the blackbirds that ate the crops. There is no great loss without some small gain.

Ma made a pie.


The evening and the rose

The Evening and The Rose

Many an hour I’ve shared and spent with you
and never for one hour with you
have I been the least bit worried.
Many many is the flower for you
I’ve picked and plucked,
and, like a bee, with you, with you
honey from it drunk;…

Guido Gezelle, 1858


Guido Gezelle

Who doesn’t like a challenge?

Two weeks ago, I was in Bruge, capitol of West Flanders with my two brothers-in law. No wives, just us. I mention Flanders because, one – the point of our trip was to tour the World War I battlefields of Flanders, and two, in Flanders they speak Flemish. I hope the Flemish will forgive me for saying their language is a melange of Dutch, German, French and English. Google Translate doesn’t have a Flemish translating tool, a surprise to me as it would seem quite simple to do.

But what do I know?

We stayed for two nights just off the central market square at the Hotel Cordoeanier and the attached Cafe Red Rose. Lovely stay, not long enough to take in all the sights, love the bikes everyone rides to and from work, loved the canals, Venice of the North, yada, yada.


Cafe Red Rose

Loved the hotel, loved it breakfast, loved the cafe, loved the Belgian beer and the good conversation we shared with all those that showed up at the Cafe Red Rose in the evening hours. I wasn’t sure about the plastic red roses hanging from the ceiling, but then I hadn’t met Guido Gezelle.

I only mention all this as a lead up to my meeting in Bruges with Guido Gezelle.

Who is Guido and what is he doing in Bruges, you ask? I answer by saying that he is a bit of a fixture in Flemish culture and in the city of Bruge itself. Literally, he is a fixture, a life size bronze statute in a quite city square.


There he stands, tall and proud, a resting place for pigeons, and a puzzlement to tourists. Guido – the Italians pronounce it Gwee-do, the Flemish, like the Germans, I assume, Gee-do. It’s Guy in French, and not often used in American-English except in Mafia movies and as one of the characters in Pixar’s animated movie Cars.

Guido Gezelle statue


Guido deserves a little respect for Guido is no less than the national poet of the Flemish language.

When the Flemish speak about Guido, they say this, “Guido Gezelle is zowat de bekendste dichter uit het Vlaamse taalgebied.” He is the most famous poet of the Flemish speaking region.”Bekendste dichter” could as easily translate as well-known poet, and it is a mouthful to speak, as is German, as is Dutch, both of which are similar.

He wrote many poems in the Flemish language, one of which is Dien Avond en die Rooze. The English translation is The Evening and the Rose. One can figure that out fairly easily as it is phonetically close to English. There is a bit of controversy about the poem, but controversy makes for good discussion. The fact is that the poet priest wrote the poem about or to an 18 year old student, Eugène van Oye.

So, what do we read into this? Nothing or everything, as you wish.

My challenge is to take the rest of the poem and translate it into English. If you need help, use the Dutch translator to help with the English translation. After that use your imagination.

My beginning is at the top. Here is the Flemish:



‘k Heb menig uur bij u
gesleten en genoten,
en nooit en heeft een uur met u
me een enklen stond verdroten.


‘k Heb menig menig blom voor u
gelezen en geschonken,
en, lijk een bie, met u, met u,
er honing uit gedronken;


maar nooit een uur zo lief met u,
zoo lang zij duren koste,
maar nooit een uur zoo droef om u,
wanneer ik scheiden moste,

als de uur wanneer ik dicht bij u,
dien avond, neêrgezeten,
u spreken hoorde en sprak tot u
wat onze zielen weten.

Noch nooit een blom zo schoon, van u
gezocht, geplukt, gelezen,
als die dien avond blonk op u,
en mocht de mijne wezen!

Ofschoon, zoo wel voor mij als u,
– wie zal dit kwaad genezen? –
een uur bij mij, een uur bij u
niet lang een uur mag wezen;

ofschoon voor mij, oschoon voor u,
zoo lief en uitgelezen,
die rooze, al was ‘t een roos van u,
niet lang een roos mocht wezen,

toch lang bewaart, dit zeg ik u,
‘t en ware ik ‘t al verloze,
mijn hert drie dierbre beelden:
u – dien avond – en – die rooze!


Source of poem.






Saper vedere

Saper Vedere – Learning to see


Assumptions are the termites of knowledge and the death of learning.


Leonardo’s eyes

Saper Vedere, Leonardo da Vinci’s phrase is translated as “to know how to see.”

Leonard would be shocked at such a hasty assumption. Knowledge is something arrived at over years, after a careful course of study. And even then it must be applied to the context of the study, the history of the times and the meaning of the author.

“Learning how to see” seems more apropos of the phrase and closer to Leonardo’s intent.

I would not be so presumptuous as to believe I could see as Leonardo. His was a gift. An ability to perceive without assumption. To see and to learn something that others failed to see. Something we still are looking for in Mona Lisa’s eyes and in her smile.

Mona Lisa’s eyes

Five hundred years later, Camille Pissarro put it beautifully:

Heureux ceux qui voient de belles choses dans les endroits modestes où d’autres ne voient rien.

Camille Pissarro 1893

Blessed are they who see beauty in life’s little things  where others see nothing.


Quite nice, don’t you think?

Then again I have also seen Pissarro’s phrase begin with:

“Bienes soit ceux-la…”

Happy or blessed, is there a difference?

Words, words, words, what do they mean? Perhaps only Mona Lisa knows and she is not speaking, and rightly finds it quite amusing.


Le figue (sèche)

Je ne sais pas du tout ce qu’est la poésie, mais assez bien ce que c’est qu’une figue. Francis Ponge

I have no idea what poetry is, but I know pretty much what a fig is.

deux figues douces et succulentes, prêt à manger


… La figue sèche est un exemple de nos savoureuses difficultés d’ici-bas.

The fig is an example of our tasty difficulties on earth.

… Ce n’est qu’une pauvre gourde, d’apparence pierreuse mais molle, un pauvre couillon flétri, fripé, d’un tissu épais mais élastique, sous une sorte poudreuse d’un lichen sucré.

Nothing more than a poor gourd, of a stony but soft appearance, a poor idiot, withered and crumpled, possessing a thick but stretchy skin, and underneath is a kind of powdery sweet lichen.

Presque informe, comme certaines petites églises ou chapelles rustiques (perdues isolées dans la campagne) bâties sans beaucoup de façons, et que le temps et l’érosion ont rendu extérieurement presque informes.

Nearly shapeless, like some small church or rustic chapel (lost and alone in the countryside) built without much thought and which time and weather have rendered nearly shapeless.

… Parfois l’on se rencontre dans la campagne au creux d’une région bocagère, comme un fruit tombé, une pauvre église romane, très ancienne, de forme romane érodée, un peu enterrée, enfouie dans l’herbe.

Sometimes one encounters it in the countryside in the hollow of a wooded area, like a fallen fruit, a poor Roman church, very ancient, an eroded Roman form, a little buried, hidden in the grass.

Le portail ouvert, il se laisse voir au fond luire un autel scintillant, l’or de ses pépins comme une flamme de bougie, dans la pourpre de la pulpe. Oh la confiture sucrée.

The door opens to reveal at the shiny bottom a brilliant altar, of golden seeds like a flaming candle, in the purple of its pulp. Oh, the sweet jam.


Note. Francis Ponge, 1899–1988, is often called the poet of little things – a fig, an asparagus, even a wash cloth. Ponge’s poetry (he called Proêmes) combined prose and poetry with strong imagery describing ordinary objects in a way that appealed to our physical senses. Le Parti pris des choses (From the things’s point of view) written and published in 1942 is well-known for its terse literary style. His aim is to describe both the utility and the beauty of ordinary things. Ponge’s poem about the fig appeared in Comment une figue de paroles et pourquoi (1977).


a fig