English Translations

Jpg rgb 1500h

Translations by Paul Vincent (editor), Poems of Guido Gezelle. A Bilingual Anthology, London: UCL Press, 2016


There once sat a cockchafer
and licked up with a yum,
yum, yum,
the dew from off the petals
that seemed all sprinkled over
as if with drops of rum,
rum, rum.

When it had drunk its fill then,
it flew all daft and dumb,
dumb, dumb,
sniffing and half-drunk now
to where the petals glistened
of a chrysanthemum,
mum, mum.

The flower saw it coming
and did not act so dumb,
dumb, dumb,
but cried out, craftily,
Hey, spider, come and spin me
a web around my turn,
turn, turn.’

The spider was soon ready,
and bent its legs and bum,
bum, bum;
it spun its web with cunning
and sat right in the middle
and stayed there still and mum,
mum, mum.

The chafer fluttered slowly
and nearer it did come,
come, come.
Entangled in the cobweb,
it was sucked quite empty,
though it lamented, ‘Hum,
hum, hum!'

The crafty flower laughed then,
the sly chrysanthemum,
mum, mum,
alas! So many suitors
are sucked dry in pursuit of
a fine chrysanthemum,
dumb, dumb!

From the German

Translated by Paul Vincent


Come lads and lasses, gather round,
and I’ll ye of Farmer Nick -
although no lionheart was he,
by gum, he was hard to trick!

One day our Nick he took to town
two cows, to see them sold,
and by the eve his purse was full
with twenty coins of gold.

Our Nick was a simple farming man,
but gormless he was not,
a seven-shooter he did buy
with seven leaden shot.

He started home with heavy purse,
and lightly he did tread,
‘By 'eck, I wish,’ our Nick did say,
‘I were back ’ome i' bed.’

While passing by a hollow tree,
he hears a sudden sound -
did something lurk, did something move,
and drop down to the ground?

But ere our Nick can breathe a breath,
it’s up with him, alas -
he’s grabbed by a pair of beefy fists
and knocked flat on the grass.

The blow it blinds our Farmer Nick,
his head and ears are numb,
and then he sees a pistol black
and hears, 'I'll shoot, by gum

I'll shoot thee dead, if tha don’t give
yon purse that’s full o’ gold,
an’ if tha moves or lifts a limb,
thy funeral bell 'as tolled!’

Our Nick, who once or twice a week
says catechisms six
so Cod might spare him till he's old,
now thinks, ‘Boy,’ ’ere's a fix!’

‘Aye,’ says Nick, ‘but wait on, lad -
it’s what our lass will think,
she'll say, “I know thee, drunken sot,
tha’s spent it all o' drink!”

A victim of a woman’s wrath
I fear that I might fall,
show kindness, lad, and through my 'at,
pray shoot a pistol ball!

And then I’ll say, when I gets 'ome,
“Tha’s lucky I’m not dead:
my money robbed, and a pistol ball
all but through my ’ead!”’

The robber he was fond of gold,
and Nick of life and limb,
so the robber took the farmer’s hat
and shot it through the brim.

‘Why, ta,’ says Nick, ‘but an ’ole through my coat
would surely save me shame!’
And he held the tails of his old gaberdine
while the robber took his aim.

‘An’ shoot one,' Nick said, ‘through my kecks
and then, by gum, the wife
she'll think it’s by a miracle,
that I’ve come back wi' my life!’

The robber says, ‘Nay lad, it's time
to ’and thy purse to me,
for I’ve got no more pistol shot-’
‘ 'Ere’s shot’ cries Nick, ‘for thee!’

His seven-shooter Nick pulls out
and holds to the robber's head,
and then Nick says, ‘Be off, mak' sharp,
or I'll fill thee full o' lead!

Aye, gallow-rag, come show thy 'eels,
or I'll blast thy brains to foam,
an’ next time tha’d rob Farmer Nick
don’t leave thy sense at ’ome!'

Up sprang the robber, one two three,
and scampered off pell-mell
he ran so fast that where he went
not even I can tell!

And now I've told ye all I know
about good Farmer Nick,
Although no lionheart was he,
by gum, he was hard to trick!

Translated by Francis R. Jones

Your browser does not meet the minimum requirements to view this website. View the compatible browsers below. If you do not have any of these browsers, click on the icon to download the desired browser.