To a Tapper
Two versions of “Toktokkie”1 have come into being: “A Tapping Beetle”, composed in English, and “Toktokkie”, in Afrikaans.2 Both are in the style of a children’s rhyme, playfully recollecting my encounter with the titular beetle on a summery mountain slope.
- The Afrikaans poem, “Toktokkie”, is my second composition in the language, “Skaapwagtertjie” being the first. That poem too is part of an English-Afrikaans set, the Afrikaans version having emerged from the English.
- Pronounced [tocktocky], with the [o] in ‘voice’.
Toktokkie, its onomatopoeic Afrikaans name, imitates the tapping sound of its rear, which it bumps against the ground as part of its mating ritual. Knocking on the ground with one’s knuckle tricks it into tapping a response; the poems echo the rhythm in trochees.3
- DUM-dum-DUM-dum-DUM / DUM-dum-DUM-dum-DUM
Originally conceived in English, the mimetic Afrikaans “Toktokkie” proved irresistible, quickly commandeering my attention. Before long, what started as a fun compositional experiment, became two complete quatrains upon which I then modelled the English poem.
Consequently, both versions describe the same scenario in the same stanza structure with corresponding lines that differ only where rhyme and diction must dictate. Nonetheless, one poem is not a mere translation of the other, but a work in its own right.
To a Clapper
I shall now develop “A Clapper Lark”. Where the Tapping Beetle drums its rear on the ground to attract a mate, the Cape Clapper Lark flaps its wings so that they make a clapping sound as it rises into the air—it then utters two whistles before quietly descending.
In the morning, one hears and sees it performing its display, rising and falling from the grasses. Though relatively unimpressive in appearance—beige and brown—what it lacks in looks, it makes up for with spectacle—delighting passerine and passerby alike.
To “A Clapper Lark”, I shall bring the same light-hearted style of “Toktokkie” and “A Tapping Beetle”—and perhaps even an Afrikaans version, as here too onomatopoeia and alliteration are to be found in its Afrikaans common name, Kaapse klappertjie.4
- Afrikaans for ‘little Cape clapper’, pronounced [kaapsuh kluppuhRky], with [uh] as ‘e’ in ‘flutter’, [klu] as in ‘cluster’, a trilled [R] and [y] as the ‘i’ in ‘it’.
Incidentally, it dawns upon me that I am nearing the end of the compositional phase of the anthology. Four poems remain before editing begins, namely “A Clapper Lark”, “Little River”, “Boys” and “The Last Time I Saw Fireflies”, likely to be completed in April.