Monday, July 30, 2018

Ida Gerhardt

Ida Gerhardt (1905—1997) is a Dutch poet, and a professor of Greek and Latin. Early on, she was influenced by the poet J.H. Leopold, who was her Classics teacher. In May of 1940 her debut poetry collection, Kosmos, was published. Much of her work is nature poetry, which arises from her Christian belief that there is a unity in all creation and it is the poet's sacred duty to uncover this.

The following poem was translated by John Irons, who says, "The poem describes the effect of the carillon coming from the steeple of a church, which is playing an old hymn included in the Valerius Gedenck-Clanck of 1626: [O Lord, who stretches out the heavens like a tent — Isaiah 40:22]...It is an appeal to God in time of need — highly appropriate in the context of the poem."

The Carillon

The people in the streets looked stricken,
their ashen faces drawn and tight, —
then something made their features quicken
and, listening, they seemed brushed with light.

For in the clock-tower when, resounding,
the bronze-chimed hour had died away,
the carilloneur began his pounding
and everywhere was heard to play.

Valerius: — a solemn singing
with bass bell’s tolling undertone
and flickerings of lighter ringing:
‘We raise our eyes to Thy high throne.’

As one of all those nameless people
who by the house fronts came to stand,
I listened to the pealing steeple
that sang of my afflicted land.

This speechless gathering, beyond us
the city with Dutch light above —
I’ve never for what’s stolen from us
felt such a bitter, bitter love.

War year 1941

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.