Martinus Nijhoff & Joseph Brodsky

‘Harbingers of the Future’ Living too brief an hour for fear or trembling, you spin, motelike, ascending above this bed of flowers, beyond the prison space where past and future combine to break, or batter, our lives, and thus when your path leads you far to open meadows, your pulsing wings bring shadows and shapes…

‘Awater’ in the UK

Martinus Nijhoff’s First English Volume Two gentlemen in a restaurant in Nijmegen. During dinner one of them says with a sigh what a shame it is to write poetry in a language that reaches so few people as Dutch does. This means that his readership remains somewhat limited, and that weighs on his heart. Eventually…

The Clouds

I still wore boy’s clothes and lay side by side Outstretched with mother in the heath’s warm lair; Above us shifting clouds were drifting by And mother asked me what I saw up there. And I cried: Scandinavia, and: swans, A lady, and: a shepherd with his sheep – The wonders were made word and…

 The Light 

The light, God’s white light, breaks up into colours: Colours are actions of the light that breaks. Life breaks up in the variegated event, And my soul breaks up as it utters words. Only he who accepts death can bear life: Oh see my blood that leaks along the nails! My window’s open, open are…

Five Poems and One Fragment by Martinus Nijhoff

The Wanderer My lonely life wanders around the streets, Within house walls, through fields, along the shore. No blood flows through my dead hands any more, My heart has silently forsaken deeds. A cloistered monk from the time of Charlemagne, With solemn Flemish face I sit withdrawn; Watch people walking on a sunny lawn, Hear…

Martinus Nijhoff, a Dutch Master of Modernism

Martinus Nijhoff (1894-1953) belongs among the most important poets to have emerged from the Dutch-speaking countries in the twentieth century. He has always striven to make his poetry as timeless as possible and, given that he is still one of his country’s most widely read poets, he seems to have succeeded wonderfully. Nijhoff can be…

The Bridge at Bommel

I went to look at the new bridge at Bommel. I saw the bridge. Two facing banks there were, which once seemed each of them to shun the other, now neighbours once again. Lying there idle for a while in the grass, after I’d drunk my tea, my mind filled with the landscape all around…