Translating the words of the Dutch poetess M. Vasalis is not the easiest task there is. But, sometimes the hardest challenges can be rewarding in the end. Here is the translation of the Dutch poem called “Droom” (“Dream“).
M. Vasalis in 1983
Author: Rob C. Croes / Anefo. Image source: Wikipedia
Who was M. Vasalis?
The Dutch psychiatrist Margaretha Droogleever Fortuyn-Leenmans published poems under the pseudonym M. Vasalis. This pseudonym was her Latinized maiden name.
Drooglever Fortuyn-Leenmans was born on February 13, 1909, in the Dutch city The Hague. She studied both medicine and anthropology at Leiden University. She got her psychiatric degree in 1939. After getting her degree, she opened a practice in Amsterdam. Later she moved to Assen, where she worked for a while. Later on, she worked in Groningen.
Her debut called “Parken en woestijnen” (“Parks and deserts“) was published in 1940. It wasn’t until after the Second World War when she published her second book, called “De vogel phoenix” (“The bird phoenix“).
She also wrote some essays and short stories. She was rewarded with several prizes for her work. This work contains strong self-reflections of her life, that ended in 1998.
I walked last night – away from a parade –
touched, all at once under a high and airy
overpass, young, alongside me there walked a big
rather heavy young man. The pillars became trees
and the concrete became loose soil.
And for a moment we stood stopped walking, his mouth
bowed down half-open, I turned
my face up, the security
of kissing and embracing there was
I woke up and is still there.
Ik liep vannacht – van een optocht los –
geraakt, ineens onder een hoog en luchtig
viaduct, jong, naast mij liep een grote
vrij zware jonge man. De pijlers werden bomen
en het beton werd losse grond.
En ogenblikkelijk stonden we stil, zijn mond
boog zich half open neer, ik richtte
mijn gezicht omhoog, de zekerheid
van kussen en omhelzen was er toen
ik wakker werd en is er nog altijd.
What are the odds that you find yourself in a parade in the middle of the night? Underneath an overpass. M. Vasalis tells us about a dream where things that seem normal turn into everything but normal. Concrete becomes loose soil. Everyone knows that concrete is made of sand (one of the ingredients). If concrete becomes soil, not even sand, it’s an indication that something is changing. When it gets interesting for her, she wakes up.
So what does this mean? Let’s assume that the transformation of solid things is something that is like the feeling that the ground beneath you is sinking. A parade suggests something festive. It also suggests something exciting. Kissing someone is something you do when you’re in love. To be in love can be a very intense emotion. It can feel like the ground is sinking. Because the poetess wakes up, there is no clear indication that it’s more than a one-sided love.