Translations of Paul van Ostaijen


+Paul van Ostaijen was (1896–1928) was ahead of his time. To be honest, I’m not sure which time this would be. Most of his poetry is still considered to be very abstract. I decided to translate some poems of his hand from Flemmish (Dutch) to English. I hope this will inspire you to write!

About the poet

Mister 1830 was the nick name of Paul van Ostaijen. He got that name as it was his habit to walk the streets of Antwerp (Belgium) dressed according to the latest fashion. This is a contradiction to his work. In his work, he shook all the conventional writers and poets of his time, by writing differently. He was greatly inspired by Dadaism, Expressionism, Modernism and even the early stages of Surrealism. he decided to depart from the beaten path and opt for something that he liked. Many people didn’t understand him, still he kept on going.

Unfortunately Van Ostaijen died at the age of 32, due to tuberculosis.



By Paul van Ostaijen

Beneath the moon slides the long river
Above the river, the tired moon slides
Under the moon on the long river, a canoe slides to the sea
Along the tall reeds
Along the low meadow
the canoe slides towards the sea
slide with the sliding moon the canoe to the sea
Thus they are companions going to the sea the canoe the moon and the man
Why do the moon and the man slide side by side meekly to the sea



Onder de maan schuift de lange rivier
Over de lange rivier schuift moede de maan
Onder de maan op de lange rivier schuift de kano naar zee
Langs het hoogriet
langs de laagwei
schuift de kano naar zee
schuift met de schuivende maan de kano naar zee
Zo zijn ze gezellen naar zee de kano de maan en de man
Waarom schuiven de maan en de man getweeën gedwee naar de zee


Evening sounds

There have white hooves behind the outskirts
the blue fields along the moon
in the evening you can hear in the distance on the stone roads the sounds of
then you hear a silent delusion
from distant moon fountains water drops
– You suddenly hear the sound of water dropping
water of the evening
the horses drink hastily
and nicker
then they trot to the stable



Er moeten witte hoeven achter de zoom staan
van de blauwe velden langs de maan
‘s avonds hoort gij aan de verre steenwegen
dan hoort gij alles stille waan
van verre maanfonteinen zijpelt plots water
– gij hoort plots het zijpelen
van avondlik water –
de paarden drinken haastig
en hinniken
dan hoort men weer hun draven stalwaarts

Free verse

As you might see, Van Ostaijen used the power of free verse in his poetry. This isn’t caused by translating it from Flemmish to English. Van Ostaijen was a word artist, far ahead of his time. He is still considered as a great inspiration for others. The question I have: Who is your inspiration?


Are you interested in more poems from this author? Click here to read the follow up article.

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