With blue-paper arrows on my cheeks
And a yellow star stuck to my head,
I stay, as a monkey takes my hand,
hanging upside-down on a balancing beam.

My master wants to make the world happy,
—"Satan's Apostle" I'm called by my sign—
And the people, a procession of mad pilgrims,
are sent here, and I am to entertain them.

They laugh at everything my craziness does,
I play dog, play human, play elephant:
I bark, I cry, I dig around with my snout—

Late at night the tent empties itself:
On the plain, where the lanterns are burning,
I lean against a pole, and call my deeds good.

Translated by Cliff Crego
(Contributed by Rozita on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011)
See All Poetry


Also By Martinus Nijhoff


European Literature

Dutch Literature