Archive for March 9th, 2020

Monday, 9 March 2020

To the Learned Gentleman Jacob Cats by Anna Roemers Visscher

When Phoebus yesterday had freed his weary steeds
From all the trappings of the race, and slowly eased
His head of burnished gold beneath the rim of sea,
Then I recalled I’d promised you some poetry.
I took my notebook, pen and ink, and duly put
My mind to writing. First the book kept falling shut.
The qull proved blunt, and when I tried to sharpen it,
The penknife slipped and gave my hand a painful cut.
The paper blotted through – the quality of ink
Was poor. I had no way to trim my candlewick,
No snuffers that would help me keep its low flame fed.
Death’s sister then appeared and dragged me off to bed.
And so, my learned friend, it was for my own good
That I should fail; for soon Dissatisfaction stood
Before me in a dream and showed me that my verse
Was crippled, limp and lame. Pale Envy made things worse:
‘You think you’re Homer!’ came her mocking sneer.
Black Slander followed, calling out for all to hear:
‘Your readers will be bored!’ At last Good Sense appeared
And said: ‘Just keep those lines you wrote well hid from view,
For then no one will envy, mock or slander you.’

From: van Gemert, Lia; Joldersma, Hermina; van Marion, Olga; van der Poel, Dieuwke; and Schenkeveld-van der Dussen, Riet (eds.), Women’s Writing from the Low Countries 1200-1875: A Bilingual Anthology, 2010, Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam, p. 239.

Date: 1623 (original in Dutch); 2010 (translation in English)

By: Anna Roemers Visscher (1584-1652)

Translated by: Myra Heerspink Scholz (19??- )