'The spring is new and new the sound it brings' - The first line of Herman Gorter's classic masterpiece Mei as it appears in May, an epic poem about youth. It is now available in the English language, in English-only as well as in illustrated bilingual edition.
Lloyd Haft, poet and translator
M. Kruijff has captured the rhythm, and with it the spirit, of Gorter’s timeless spellbinder. The reader is drawn almost breathlessly onward through magnificent word-groups...'the water seethed in its eternal flames'..., 'in the glittering of mother gleamed the child'...The English is modern but not everyday, full of surprising turns of phrase which often hark back to Gorter’s famously innovative Dutch style. The result is a gripping story highlighted by exquisite lyric episodes. Before you know it, you’ll be reading it out loud! And others will be listening.
May has been awarded a BookLife Editor's Pick, for books of "truly exceptional quality".
Kruijff’s translation Herman Gorter’s epic poem mourns the loss of the “sweet melancholy of youth.”
For many, adulthood feels like an endless slog, and emotional numbness often accompanies this loss of innocence, quashing our ability to have transformational experiences and connect with the natural world. Kruijff’s translation of Dutch writer Herman Gorter’s epic poem, originally published in 1889, resonantly mourns the loss of the “sweet melancholy of youth,” which Kruijff defines in an introduction as “an unbounded intensity of the senses.” Translated here in English, Gorter’s poem personifies its namesake month–the epitome of springtime–by bringing to life a young girl (“the sweetest, blondest, yes, the little May”) bursting with excitement and possibility. Over time, however, she is dragged “finally into submission in the face of mundane city life,” leaving her jaded and bereft.
Unfolding like an impressionist painting, each line of Gorter’s poem is rich with vivid sensory details–colors, textures, and sounds of the countryside that illustrate the depth and intensity of his longing, though he was just 24 when his Mei was published. Kruijff’s translation juxtaposes May’s childlike beauty and innocence with arresting and sometimes jarring images that hint at the tragedy to come: “Awakening and rising on the palms / Of her flat hands, as frail shells were crackling / Underneath her – while on her delicate chin, / Still moist from sleep, a tilted sunray shot / Off the dune’s edge, and made for trembling blood.”
Though it is more than a century old, Gorter’s signature work carries a sentiment still relevant in the modern age. Readers will find this 4,381-line poem both nostalgic and slightly gut wrenching as it inevitably kicks up memories of lost love--and lost possibility. For those who are still young at heart–or wishing to reclaim the fervor of youth–this thoughtful, lyrical translation will stir the imagination and invite consideration of what makes the heart sing, even if the joy, like May, is only temporary. The poem, though, will endure.
Great for fans of: Willem Kloos, Hendrik Marsman.
Design and typography: A
Arjan Peters, literair recensent
Om de Mei, het epische gedicht uit 1889 van Herman Gorter, in het Engels te kunnen vertalen, moet je over muzikaliteit beschikken, en over een zekere kinderlijkheid. Gorter was 24, en in zijn drang om de duinen, de zee en de wind in klanken om te zetten, maakte hij gebruik van een soms praterig en ietwat losgezongen Nederlands ('watergracht', 'twalef', 'boomenlichtgetoover', en 'essence' rijmt op 'mensch'). Het is een knappe prestatie die Kruijff levert met 'May- an epic poem about youth' [...]: alle 4380 versregels, met veel vindingrijk rijm. En 'boomenlichtgetoover' wordt 'tree-light wizardry'. Het kán. Hierbij een stukje uit een lied van de blinde god Balder. Mei is verliefd op hem, maar hij ziet haar niet, en kan alleen voor zijn lied leven. [...]
Anne Walter, editor, ex. Birmingham University
Kruijff’s translation of Gorter’s Mei ably adds to the corpus of academic literature surrounding this important poet.
The translation has been done meticulously and sensitively, with great attention to detail and with a careful adherence to the principles that defined Gorter’s epic work.
The spiritual and metaphysical implications of Mei’s journey are portrayed with care, while none of the beauty of Gorter’s writing is lost in translation. [...] An undoubted romantic, Gorter sees nature through the lenses of an almost spiritual melancholy and nostalgia for a lost innocence and Kruijff’s translation conveys this with an intensity of language which reveals intuitive clarity of vision and profound empathy.
Kruijff refers to each line of the poem ‘acting like one brush stroke in an Impressionist painting’ and this is a good analogy. [...] Kruijff has succeeded in retaining all the freshness of Gorter’s use of pure colour and depiction of light in Mei’s youthful journey. As he says in his introduction: ‘… if you are seeking the colour of your memories, these blessed abilities to create them, to soak in the light and dark of days gone by… to open your mind once more to nature… then I believe that reading May can show you the way there and lead you back to it’.
I have no hesitation in concurring with this statement and recommend that you begin this journey without loss of time.