This is the Afrikaans text version of the landmark WW1 poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Lt Col John McCrae as translated into Afrikaans for the 100 year anniversary of The Battle of Delville Wood and the Somme Offensive in July 2016.
As the Battle of Delville Wood involved South Africans of both British and Afrikaner origin, and it was the battle which forged the young union of South Africa’s identity, it was felt that it would be appropriate to translate ‘In Flanders Fields’ into Afrikaans and read it at the centenary ceremony. The poem up to that point had already been translated into a variety of languages, but not Afrikaans.
This Afrikaans translation is the result of a dedicated collaborative effort.
In Vlaandere se Velde – Deur Lt. Kol John McCrae
In Vlaand’re wieg papawers sag
Tussen kruise, grag op grag,
As bakens; en deur dit alles deur
Die lewerikke tjilpend in dapper vlug,
Skaars hoorbaar bo die grofgeskut van bomme.
Ons is die Dooies.
Dae gelede het ons geleef
die dagbreek en sonsondergloed beleef.
Was bemind en was verlief,
nou lê ons in Vlaandere se velde.
Veg voort my Kind met alle mag;
neem uit my hand die lig,
met krag moet jul die fakkel dra, met eer.
Wie durf Ons dood verloën, onteer –
ons sal steeds dwaal, ons sal nie slaap,
solank papawers groei in Vlaandere se velde.
The original English version, composed by Colonel McCrae after he buried Alexis Helmer, a close friend, who was killed during the battle of Ypres. McCrae performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station just outside the town of Ypres. This location is today known as the John McCrae Memorial Site. Here’s what he wrote:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The poem was kindly translated into Afrikaans by Hendrik Neethling and Walter E. Vice as a collaboration on behalf of the South African Legion and The Royal British Legion. It was arranged and read by Karen Dickens at the Legion’s Centenary Service of the South African sacrifice on the Somme and the Battle of Delville Wood. This landmark occasion was held at the Thiepval Memorial to the missing in France on 10th July 2016.
Posted in memory of the co-author of this translation – Hendrik Neethling, may he Rest in Peace.
Written by Peter Dickens with thanks to Theo Fernandes for the image and my wife Karen Dickens for her dedication in translating ‘In Flanders Field’ into her Mother Tongue.