De Dapperstraat

The poem 'De Dapperstraat' is a well-known and much loved classic dutch poem. Initially I made this translation to explain 'dutchness' to my english-speaking partner Atmo (now Marion) - later, when she'd learned a bit more dutch, we finished it together.

J.C. Bloem, the grumpy man he was, describes in this poem why Holland is not suitable for romantically longing back-to-nature. There's no true nature in the Netherlands. Everything is signposted and hemmed in between roads and suburbs. Everything in this country was made, planned or planted by the Dutch. The polders, reclaimed from lake and sea. The heather, sustained by subsidized sheep. The forests, planted by 19th century kings to produce wood and provide their hunting grounds. In short, everything.

Holland is a park. A poem to show that moments of enlightenment can come to us anywhere.

De Dapperstraat

by J.C. Bloem

The Dapperstraat

translated by Sakaama & Atmo, 1997

Natuur is voor tevredenen of legen
En dan: wat is natuur nog in dit land?
een stukje bos, ter grootte van een krant.
Een heuvel met wat villaatjes ertege.

Geef mij de grauwe, stedelijke wegen.
De in kaden vastgeklonken waterkant,
De wolken, nooit zo schoon dan als ze, omrand
Door zolderramen langs de lucht bewegen.

Alles is veel voor wie niet veel verwacht.
Het leven houdt zijn wonderen verborgen
Tot het ze, opeens, toont in hun hoge staat.

Dit heb ik bij mijzelve overdacht,
Verregend, op een miezerige morgen,
Domweg gelukkig in de Dapperstraat.

Leave nature to those empty or contented
And then: what's left of nature in this land?
A little wood, the size of a postage stamp,
A hill, residences stuck onto it.

Give me the grey urban streets.
The water firmly held between brick moorings,
The clouds, so beautiful when framed
In attic windows, they drift along the sky.

Anything is a lot, when you expect so little
Life keeps its wonders hidden
To suddenly reveal them in a divine state.

I thought about all this,
Soaking wet, one drizzly morning,
Simply happy in the Dapperstraat.


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Translation last updated on 18 July, 1997 © Sakaama.