»  I.D du Plessis' "Eenling is die mens gebore"

 

Eenling is die mens gebore

by I.D du Plessis, 1900-1981

 

•  Background

You don't often get to hear spoken Afrikaans, the language of South Africa's Boer people; and the way things are going in that country, your opportunities to hear it are not likely to improve in the 21st century.

Afrikaans is a true language though, dear to its native speakers, and with a respectable literary tradition. Reader Elizabeth Nieman has kindly recorded for me this little gem by the "Dertigers" (i.e. 1930s) writer I.D du Plessis.

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•  Play the reading

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•  Text of the poem in Afrikaans

Eenling is die mens gebore
in die diepste van sy siel
skuil 'n plek waar, mens-verlore,
hy in eensaamheid moet kniel.

as kristal en silwer skitter,
ligte vonkel in die wyn,
raak die vreugde soms verbitter
in die uur van samesyn.

in die wilde blom se prag
wat die lente oral sprei
skuil 'n trooswoord vir 'n dag —
en die weelde is verby.

rykdom weef met sagte hande
om party sy goue draad —
geen bevryding van die bande
waarin eensaamheid ons laat.

middernagtelike ure
kan die skim 'n tydjie keer;
spoedig val die brose mure
en ons sien die spookbeeld weer.

eenling is die mens gebore;
in die diepste van sy siel
skuil 'n plek waar, mens-verlore,
hy in eensaamheid moet kniel.

•  Translation

Note:  I can find no English translation of this poem. What follows is my own effort, with assists from Google Translate and an online Afrikaans-English dictionary. If anyone can suggest improvements, I will accept them with gratitude.
Man is born alone;
In the depths of his soul
hiding a place where, one who is lost,
he must kneel in loneliness.

as crystal and silver glitter
lights sparkle in the wine,
comes the sometimes bitter joy
in the hour of fellowship.

in the wild flower's splendor
that is everywhere in spring
bringing word of comfort for a day —
then the show is gone.

weave wealth with soft hands
to gather its golden threads —
no deliverance from the bonds
which grant us seclusion.

midnight hours
can hold the phantom for a moment;
soon fall the fragile walls
and again we glimpse the specter.

Man is born alone;
In the depths of his soul
hiding a place where, one who is lost,
he must kneel in loneliness.