Good Death

Good Death whose clear pure piping
Penetrates life grown still,
Drawing smiles of understanding
From the young and beautiful,

For whom the wise and children
Gladly leave their books and play,
At whom only pinched old men
Shiver with cold dismay,-

I count each day bleak and empty
That lacks your beckoning horn;
For to me ever strange and lovely
Is this land of new wine and corn;

For not once did I ever drink here
The water that makes the soul young
But there’d ring out from somewhere near
The air of your distant song.

All the beauty of earth’s giving
&to you with every breath,
And only then is life living
When it moves us even to death.

From Voices (Stemmen, 1907)
By P.C. Bouten
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1995