Wat swewe soos ’n wysie

Pronounced [vutt sweevuh swis uh veyssy]1, the above is a line composed for “Skaapwagterjie”, the Afrikaans counterpart2 of “Shepherd Girl”. It translates to “That floats like a tune”, which does nothing to convey the alliterative and onomatopoeic beauty that Afrikaans achieves in this simple string of syllables. Incidentally, I am unable to use the line as no configuration of the stanza in which it is meant to appear permits me; but what a joy to have conceived of it!

  1. The [uh] like the “a” in “about”.
  2. I now prefer “counterpart” as a description of “Skaapwagtertjie”’s relationship with “Shepherd Girl” rather than “translation”. Whilst the process is that of translation, my goal is an Afrikaans poem in its own right.

Ever refining the Introduction and Artist Statement on the About page, these are the latest changes toward a clearer and simpler description of my work:

About Introduction Before, 15 May 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.About Introduction After, 15 May 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.About Statement Before, 15 May 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.About Statement After, 15 May 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

“Skaapwagtertjie” is following the same path of development as its English counterpart, “Shepherd Girl”, with an early resolution of all the stanzas but the second. Just like “Shepherd Girl”, two weeks into its composition, the drafts for stanzas one, three and four are reduced to one or two versions, whilst for stanza two, there are more than ten (from a total of about twenty) yet to be whittled down to that number. This is my task in the days to come.

Presently translating “Shepherd Girl” into the Afrikaans “Skaapwagtertjie”, I am encouraged to do the same for another poem titled “Little River” (yet unfinished). The sketch contains several Afrikaans bird and place names which justify a full translation, I think. When I composed the first draft of “Little River”, I thought of it as a way of enjoying Afrikaans without actually composing a work in the language; but “Skaapwagtertjie” shows me the delights of doing so. Perhaps I shall eventually translate the entire anthology into Afrikaans; but for now, this set shall be my indulgence.

Ruminating on the nature of Poesy, I am struck by how much of its composition is a process of elimination. Poetry, to me, answers the question: “How, in language, do I express this thought as evocatively as possible?” The phrase into which a thought is cast may be constructed from any number of words at a poet’s command; his task: systematically to sift through these to find which, in his estimation, best encapsulate the promptings of his soul—or, in lowlier terms, best wrestle lyric from prose and style from substance.

Working on “Skaapwagtertjie”, the Afrikaans version of “Shepherd Girl”, I am surprised at the first draft: how closely it approximates the English without being laboured; nonetheless, I do not intend slavishly to imitate the original. That manner of mere translation I find offensive—a gross abuse of language for the sake of fidelity (invariably at the cost of good verse) that I wholly condemn; and thus, whilst I began with a rudimentary direct Afrikaans translation, I shall let the language take its course and effect whatever changes to content and style it requires. Rarely do the poetic subtleties of a line migrate between languages, but where I can replicate these without contorting the Afrikaans, I shall do so.

Cape Skink, 30 April 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

© 2020 Forgotten Fields
The Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis), a common lizard found in the Overberg region. Though wild, it takes much disturbance to drive it from the sun. I was all but upon this one before it hurried into its hole.
Mongoose, 30 April 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

© 2020 Forgotten Fields
Spot the mongoose. What I believe to be a Yellow Mongoose or Red Meerkat (Cynictis penicillata) standing in the stubble.