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Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Zet alle klokken stil, zet die telefoon af,

Smoor met een vette kluif het geblaf,

Doe de piano’s zwijgen, breng met stille trom

De kist naar buiten. Dragers, kom!

Laat vliegtuigen kreunend cirkelen in hun vlucht

En de boodschap Hij is Dood krabbelen in de lucht,

Hang crêpe strikken rond witte duivenkragen,

Laat verkeersagenten zwarte handschoenen dragen.

Hij was mijn Noord, Zuid, West en Oost,

Mijn werkweek en mijn Zondagstroost,

Mijn noen en middernacht, mijn gesprek, mijn lied,

Ik dacht dat liefde eeuwig duurt: ik wist het niet.

Geen sterren nodig nu, doof ze zonder pardon;

Steek de maan weg en ontmantel de zon;

Giet de oceaan leeg, veeg het woud schoon.

Want nu wordt niets ooit weer gewoon.

Translation: DE MEESTER Z.A.J.

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Museum van Schone Kunsten

Op Bruegels Icarus, bij voorbeeld: zoals alles zich

Op zijn dode gemak van de ramp afkeert; de man achter de ploeg

Zou de plons gehoord kunnen hebben, de verloren kreet,

Maar voor hem was het geen belangrijk fiasco; de zon scheen

Zoals het moest op de witte benen die verdwenen in het groene

Water; en het kostbare, fragiele schip dat iets merkwaardigs

Gezien moet hebben, een jongen die uit de hemel viel,

Moest ergens heen en zeilde rustig door.

Vertaling J. BERNLEF

Who's Who

A shilling life will give you all the facts:

How Father beat him, how he ran away,

What were the struggles of his youth, what acts

Made him the greatest figure of his day;

Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,

Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea;

Some of the last researchers even write

Love made him weep his pints like you and me.

With all his honours on, he sighed for one

Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;

Did little jobs about the house with skill

And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still

Or potter round the garden; answered some

Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

As I walked our one evening

As I walked out one evening,

Walking down Bristol Street,

The crowds upon the pavement

Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river

I heard a lover sing

Under an arch of the railway:

‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you

Till China and Africa meet,

And the river jumps over the mountain

And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean

Is folded and hung up to dry

And the seven stars go squawking

Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,

For in my arms I hold

The Flower of the Ages,

And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city

Began to whirr and chime:

‘O let not Time deceive you,

You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare

Where Justice naked is,

Time watches from the shadow

And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry

Vaguely life leaks away,

And Time will have his fancy

To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley

Drifts the appalling snow;

Time breaks the threaded dances

And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,

Plunge them in up to the wrist;

Stare, stare in the basin

And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,

The desert sighs in the bed,

And the crack in the tea-cup opens

A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes

And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,

And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,

And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror,

O look in your distress:

Life remains a blessing

Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window

As the tears scald and start;

You shall love your crooked neighbour

With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,

The lovers they were gone;

The clocks had ceased their chiming,

And the deep river ran on.

If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so

Time only knows the price we have to pay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,

If we should stumble when musicians play,

Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,

Because I love you more than I can say,

If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,

There must be reason why the leaves decay;

Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,

The vision seriously intends to stay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,

And the brooks and soldiers run away;

Will Time say nothing but I told you so?

If I could tell you I would let you know.