Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006). His most recent book, a liberal modern Dutch reading of Laozi's Daode jing, was published as Lau-tze's vele wegen by Synthese in September 2017.



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 5)


[This is my English adaptation of the third of three long ‘parts’ or books comprised in Gorter’s Liedjes, first published posthumously in 1930. For technical reasons, the second book appeared earliest; it can be found in the December 2013 archive of this blog. The first book is in the January 2014 archive. The numbers in square brackets before each poem refer to the page numbers in the Dutch original as reprinted in 1981 by Uitgeverij de Arbeiderspers.
Two earlier postings, both under the October 2013 archive of this blog, have contained translations of Gorter’s highly experimental, often erotic Verses. The Liedjes represent his supreme effort to combine the love for a woman with the love for humanity as he conceived it in his Socialist and Communist political ideals. Here, the beautiful woman, the ‘Lady’ or ‘Maiden,’ stands both for herself and for the ‘new humankind’ whom Gorter hoped the Revolution would bring into being.[1] – L.H.]


from Lyrics (Liedjes)
by Herman Gorter (1864-1927)

edited and translated by Lloyd Haft


BOOK THREE: THE DEFEAT OF THE REVOLUTION

I.

[210]

And I was happy: that her all-world tongue
resounded in my sweet mother tongue.

[211]

And I followed her, her little page
through golden orchards of the night and day,
thinking the new poetry
was here, immortal in her melody.

[212]

And then I saw her. She was herself the sun
of night, facing the endless waste
of all in All, the timeless all-plantations
shadowed fathomless in blue and far.

And at her feet, there sat the little page,
guard of the highest pride of all the stars
blue and white-sparked, low on the horizon.
And far away the luring secret waved.

And she stepped forth to meet the all-in-All
farther than all the stars and plantations,
into the deep and blue and endless wide

with her golden, gold-echoing footfall.
She, the Spirit of the New Music, my Bride –
And I myself seemed most that shining page.

[214]

KARL LIEBKNECHT

Karl, your image, stalwart , solemn,
fills all Europe with its beams of light.
You tower above the masses as above the tight
weavings of the sea a basalt column.

You raised the red flag straight and true
when it lay as a rag on a pile of dung,
waving again and shining for all to view –
you with your heart so nobly, purely strung.

You died. And why? because you were murdered
by capital. But also by the workers
who left you all alone with your attackers,

never listening to your lofty word.
Your love died only when it was foresaken
by the German workers. Your love was what they hated.

[215]

ROSA LUXEMBURG

Rosa, great and noble, Lady of might
with your bright mind, your pure love
for the working class, your Beloved
to whom alone your life was plighted –

you walked as a high bright star
ahead of the working class, your Beloved
into battle – and your shining love
shone before, lone, ahead and far.

You died. And why? because you were murdered
by capital. But also by the workers
who left you all alone with your attackers,

never listening to your soaring word.
Your love died only when it was foresaken
by the German workers. Your love was what they hated.

[218]

And silently I raised my hot-wept eyes
toward her where she was now: the heights.

II.

[227]

‘I ask you, Love: plunge into the sea,
that borderlineless country –
my love holds no hope
but like the sea, unending scope.’

[230]

Like a star in the night
you are, so far, so nigh.
And seeing you, I
realize my wait is endless
but you are so nigh.

[231]

Where the rain falls
the heart shrinks small.
And the thought creeps in, of asking
you, my Love, to take me in.

[232]

O that I could be in you,
o that I could nothing be,
whole in you, in you.
That they should seek me, finding nothing
but a spoor, a something
that is mine in you, in you.

[234]

I’ve tried to find,
hour by hour.
I could not find.
That was my fire.

[235]

My love! hungering, longing, eating
nor drinking: all-forgetting,
being in a gigantic wane
of All. But then to gain your face!

[236]

Because I am so sure
there is on earth no treasure
that can still the fullest longing,
I undertook to hunger
as my only living
and to seek, quivering.

[238]

After the day that never answers hunger
luckily there’s night, the haven.
True, no better does night bring
the emptiness-abating thing
but since I’m one with night’s cool,
because she’s empty I forget
that I am too.

[239]

He who has the sunlight lacks the sun.
But though you were beyond my reaching forth –
At least I had the light
that comes from you, my source.

[240]

Beloved,
now, here,
truth:
I hurt,
want
to be
in you.
And in this want
I’m starving –
yet, the blessedness
that what I have
is love, for you.

[244]

The sea is dead,
the earth is dead –
because the Music’s dead – the bread
of life.

[245]

At end of day
abyss is all –
hills and sea and sky
one boundless pall.

[246]

As evening falls
I stand by the abyss,
peering into All.
Nothing was, nothing is, nothing shall.

III.

[253]

A single tone. Out of the continent
behind me one note rises.
Like a fire in the night,
a fire in the darkness,
a stem of sound.

[254]

Like a new word
never before on earth heard.

[255]

And the sky took color in the East,
mirroring the colors in the West...

[256]

And the world came open!
And the sun came baptizing the globe
bathing her head in its glow
or like a mother, child in arm,
giving it the breast still warm,
seeing how it breathes. –
And my Love came walking over
from far over the ocean
where the stars and sun and moon,
the lights roam lonely...

And she hurried close to me, my Love,
loving me above all else because
it was as firstborn that I sung.
And she hurried close to me, my Mother,
my Protectress ever
to whose knees and breast I shoved.
And, my Wife, she came to me
and loved me deep and loyally
like water from a boulder sprung.

[257]

Nearing in silence, she placed
herself before my face
and in the space of all the cosmic canopy
gently began to speak to me:

‘My tender poet,’ so she spoke
in beauty, wisdom, glory –
‘my poet, all-too tender one,
I was the Idea of the workers.
I was the Idea of the fighters.
I’ve died as an Idea
but a higher life’s now mine.
I live now in the very workers –
live now in those wondrous seeds,
the councils of the workers.
Be one with them, one with them. Learn you
must, my Poet, tender one
anew.’

[258]

Thus she spoke, and gave her hands to mine
in pledge a while,
her eyes beneath high goldbrown hair
blue and staring
into mine, as the shepherd does
a sheep. I went my way and joined, as one
star of the many, in the labor of the workers,
trying to learn the new truth that was theirs.

IV.

[261]

Gold in her own beaming stands the moon,
entering into the very light she frees,
and welcoming her, night rises vis-à-vis
entering into her with its deep blue.

There above, it’s all one back-and-forth
of golden lighting in reflection showing
and the nightblue flood receiving it below –
shown for me here, deep in the earth’s furrow.

But even while I stand here in this deep
there suddenly rises, standing there as crystal
in gold of the moon and the night of all-of-All –

my Love, in golden helmet, yellow-robed
in night’s balsam and come-and-going gold,
giving and receiving beam on beam.

[262]

Gold in her own beaming stands the moon,
entering into light by shy degrees,
while night, deep blue, rises vis-à-vis
letting its balsam into gold transmute.

There above, it’s all one back-and-forth
of gold light standing still in self-reflection
and night self-plunging in blue cataract –
shown for me here, deep in the earth’s furrow.

But even while I stand here in this deep,
above arises, sudden, like a crystal
in gold of the moon and night of all-in-All,

Myself, my lineaments in yellow robes,
in night’s balsam and come-and-going gold,
giving and receiving beam on beam.

[263]

Gold in her own beaming stands the moon,
entering into light while keeping clear,
with night in deep blue standing vis-à-vis,
transferring into her its own deep blue.

There above, it’s all one back-and-forth
of gold light, in itself its own reflection,
and flood that in itself is redeflected –
shown for me here, deep in the earth’s furrow.

But even while I stand here in this deep,
there suddenly rises, standing there as crystal
in the golden light and night of all-in-All,

the One Humanity, in yellow robes
in night’s balsam and come-and-going gold,
giving and receiving beam on beam.

[264]

And while I stand in dark earth’s furrowing
I feel myself, my Love, and mankind growing
into one another, growing one with all of All,
and in that, by that, forming one bright crystal.




[1] My post ‘Poems by Herman Gorter (Part 1),’ in the October 2013 archive, includs a brief introduction. For a good overall introduction to Gorter’s life and work by Paul Vincent, see