My father’s house, where the days passed more slowly,
was quiet, for within the garden’s shade it lay
and in the over-arching leaves’ tranquillity.
— I was a child, measured life by my mother’s stray
laughter, who was not merry, and the regularity
of twilights round the trees, the desultory
years round the placid life of the unstirring day.
And I was happy in the shadow of this life
which walked beside my dreams like a good father…
— The days had given me the strange delight
of knowing how each evening a flock of birds would hover
in the gentle skies of summer, which suffuse
the souls of lowly men with blessed ease
when twilight fails and paints in its own evening hues
the heavy-tranquil fruit upon the peaceful trees.
…Then softly you became part of my life, and we
were like two meagre flowers in the evening of the day.
And I loved you. And though since then I may
have loved many women, with assurance or entreaty,
you I did love; for I saw your child’s eyes glow
at leaning blossoms in the gardens, and your face
look on my solitary thoughts and deeds with solace
in my father’s house, where the days passed so slow…
From My Parents’ House (Het Vaderhuis, 1903)
By Karel van de Woestijne
Translated by Tanis Guest
First published in The Low Countries, 1995