The Colour

The Colour

Under the pen name J. Bernlef, Henk Bernlef and Bernlef he wrote many poems. Hendrik Jan Marsman (1937-2012) was one of the most famous Dutch poets from the twentieth century. The poem De Kleur (The Colour) is translated from Dutch to English.

If you want to translate poems that are written in your native language, feel free to do so. We will share them on our website and social media.

About the poet

BernlefMarsman was a writer, poet, novelist and translator. He started writing under the pen name J. Bernlef (from 2002 just Bernlef) at the end of the fifties. His first poem was called Kokkels (Cockles). His fame rose in 1984, when he wrote a novel about dementia with the title Hersenschimmen (Out of mind).

He won various awards for his work. At the age of 75 he died on October 29 2012 in Amsterdam.

The Colour

The Colour

By Bernlef

My past, captured in pictures with jagged edges
has never known colour, in greyscale they show an existence
ever further from me, I look at it
try to guess the colour of the fence where
I leaned against. The sky is blue, I am sure of that

Would the colour blind noticed how
technicolor made the images in the cinema
flourish, it must surely be
the world still got further out of sight
he knew he saw it differently.

Colour photos disappoint me
it’s all just real, not what I want;
I prefer watching greyscale images
they colour my thoughts till today

In Dutch this poem is called De Kleur.

De Kleur

De Kleur

Door Bernlef

Mijn verleden, vastgelegd in foto’s met kartelrandjes
heeft nooit kleur gekend, in grijstinten tonen zij een bestaan
steeds verder van mij vandaan, ik kijk ernaar
probeer de kleur te raden van het tuinhek waar
ik toen tegen leunde. De lucht is blauw, dat weet ik zeker.

Zou de kleurenblinde hebben gemerkt hoe
technicolor de beelden in de bioscoop
deed opbloeien, het moet haast wel
de wereld raakte voor hem steeds verder uit het zicht
hij wist dat hij het anders zag.

Kleurenfoto’s stellen mij teleur
het is allemaal net echt, niet wat ik wil;
liever kijk ik naar die grijze beelden
ze kleuren mijn denken tot de dag van vandaag.

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