HUGO CLAUS (Belgium)
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
Here the soil is most rank.
Even after all these years without dung
you could raise a prize death leek here.
The English veterans are getting scarce
Every year they point to their yet scarcer friends:
Hill Sixty, Hill Sixty-One, Poelkapelle.
In Flanders Fields the threshers
draw ever smaller circles round the twisting trenches
of hardened sandbags, the entrails of death.
The local butter
tastes of poppies.
© translation John Irons
I write you down
My wife, my pagan altar,
On which I play with caressing fingers of light,
My young forest through which I overwinter,
My neurotic, and chaste and tender sign,
I write down your body and breath
On lined music paper.
And in your ear I promise brand new horoscopes
And prepare you again for travels around the world
And for a stay in one or another Austria.
But in the neighbourhood of gods and constellations
Eternal happiness too worns out,
And I have no home, I have no bed,
I even haven’t birthday flowers left for you.
I write you down on paper
While you an orchard in July alike, swell and Blossom.
©Tr. Germain Droogenbroodt
Hugo Claus, Bruges 1924-Antwerp 2008, is the most important Flemish writer after the Second World War. In addition to his literary work, writing poetry, prose, plays and film scripts, he has also been active as a painter and a movie director. In the fifties he belonged to the avant-garde artists who were active in Paris. His masterpiece is Het verdriet van België (The Sorrow of Belgium, 1983) is about a black page in the history of Belgium: the collaboration with the German occupier. Hugo Claus received many important local and foreign prizes, among which, in 1986, the Dutch Literature Prize,the most important literary honour in the Dutch language.