“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.