Friday, 20 November 2009

The Gardener and Death

A Persian nobleman:

This morning, my gardener pale from fright,
‘Master, one moment, please’, came running inside.

‘In yonder rose-bush I was cutting shoot after shoot
And when I turned and looked, grim Death there stood.

I was appalled and by the other way I fled,
But still descried his hand casting a threat.

Master, your horse, and with godspeed let me ride
To Ispahan, which I may reach ere fall of night.’

This afternoon – long after he had sped -
In the park of cedars, Death it was I met.

‘Why,’ thus I asked, while he stood waiting there,
‘Did you, this morn, give my servant such a scare?’

Smilingly came his reply: ‘No threat, for sure, it was
That sent your gardener fleeing. Surprised I was

To find, in early morn, here still at work a man
Who, this same evening, I am to take in Ispahan.’

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, 'De Tuinman en de Dood' by P.N.van Eyck (1887-1954)
who took the theme from Jean Cocteau's 'Le grand ├ęcart'.

Compare a different translation by Kate Ashton which, afterwards, I happened upon at a blog called 'Books Do Furnish A Room'.