Poem – South Africa

Gulwe op die Strand

Hulle val oor hul eie voete

Al val hulle terug hou hulle moed

Hulle staan weer op en storm,

Storm in waansin waar voort

Net soos dit lyk of hul die geveg

Wen, kom die wit bal

en trek hul terug waar hul

vandaan kom

Party dae is hulle rof en grof

Ander dae skuif hul rustig voort

maar altyd bly hul genadeloos

In die stilte van die oggend

Dreun jul voort en klap soos ‘n sweep

Hul spoeg dood maar nie verwoesting nie

Selfs die magtige swart kastele

Bly nie staande, nie staan teen hul

Voortdurende aanslag nie

Hul sal voortgaan heel dag, heel nag

Lank na ons en lank voor ons

Sal hule oor hul eie voete breek


Hille fal oor hulle aya foete

Al fal hille terug hoe hille moet

Hille staan veer op en storm

Storm in vaansin veer foort

Net soos dit lake orf hil di gefeg

Ven, korm dee vit bul

En trek hil terug vaar hil

Fandaan kom

Partay dae is hille rof en grof

Anda dae skuyf hil ristig fourt

Mar alteight blay hil genadiloos

In dee stilta fan dee ogind

Dreen hil fourt en clapsoos a swap

Hil spoeg dout mar knee firvosting knee

Selfs dee magtiga swaart kasteala

Blay nee stande,knee staan teun hil

Fourtdurende aanslag knee

Hil sal fourtgaan heal dug,heal nug

Lunk na ons en lunk four ons

Sal hil oor hil eye foete breuk

English translation

Waves on the beach

They tumble over their own legs

Even though they fall back, they are courageous

They go out again and charge

charge forward vehemently again

Just as it appears as if they are winning

the battle, the big white ball comes

and drags them back

to where they came from

Some days they are rough and mean

Other days they move on quietly

but they are always merciless

In the silence of the morning

they rumble forward and hit like a whip

They spit forth death but not total destruction

Even the powerful black castles

do not stand, do not stand

against the constant attacks

They continue on all day and night

Long after us and before us

They will break over their own feet

English and Afrikaans used to be the two official languages of South Africa until Apartheid was ended. My father is fluent in Afrikaans as it is a mandatory subject one had to take from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Literature and poetry were significant parts of the Afrikaans curriculum and this is a poem that my father remembers learning in junior high school.

The poem symbolizes to him the eternity of the sea. People’s lives are transient and whereas the waves on the beach are interminable. However what both have in common are the ups and downs, the tranquil times and the rough times, and the unknowing variation that takes place.

He feels that the poem is very descriptive, however a lot of the impact is lost in translation.

I agree with my father about the juxtaposition of the eternity of waves with the terminable human life. However, I feel that there is more to the poem that can be explored. This poem not only delves into the difference between the sea and humans but also shows the similarities as well. The waves are shown to be unrelenting. Although they are given obstacles (“Even though they fall back, they are courageous”) they continue each day extending effort to defeat the current. However the waves will continue each day regardless of success but that will not stop them from continuing relentless for eternity.

This poem seems to teach a lesson about the human spirit. Similar to the waves being defeated, humans will always have people pushing them back from achieving their goals. Yet this should not stop one from trying to succeed with a goal but instead encourage persistence and dedication. Sometimes one will never reach the desired goal but it essential to continue regardless. The phrase that reads “Some days they are rough and mean, other days they move on quietly” represents the human persona. Some days we are able to continue without complaints and power through even though challenges are constantly placed in our direction. Yet in other circumstances anger is released from the frustration of failure.

I wish I was able to fluently understand Afrikaans as I definitely think a lot of the significance and beauty is lost in translating the poem to English. Many times a word in one language does not have a direct translation into another language. Therefore a lot of the meaning is taken away through translation.