Big Love

Ina ( ) has translated one of my poems into Dutch.

That is quite something. I have never had one of my poems translated into another language before. I can only imagine how difficult it must be. I am honoured that she should want to try.

She has also promised to record it so that I can hear what it sounds like in Dutch – that is to look forward to.  🙂

With her permission I am posting both versions of the poem in this blog.

Perhaps she will be good enough to add a comment outlining some of her thought process whilst doing the translation.

By way of background to the poem  –

‘Arohanui’ is an ancient Maori word.
It has no direct translation into English. It is perhaps best described as conveying the concept – ‘Big Love’.
I was first introduced to the word by a friend from New Zealand on Myspace and was immediately enchanted by it  –  its sound, the way it looks on a page and its meaning. Hence I was inspired to write the poem.



Big love

I let the syllables reverberate
Across my tongue; its sound
Moves out, slides down
soft against my skin, touches
The ground and echoes back;
Surrounds, envelopes me in warmth
Comfort, security of love.

I draw you to me, let you
Put your head upon my shoulder,
Look into your eyes, see love therein.
Under my breath I speak the word;
Let its essence draw us both
Into a place of joy. No other word will do –


Groot lief

Ik laat de lettergrepen vibreren
Over mijn tong; ‘t geluid
Glijdt steeds lager
Zacht tegen mijn huid, en raakt
De grond en echoot terug;
Omgeeft, omwikkelt me in warmte
Troostend , zekerheid van liefde.

Ik trek je bij me, laat je
Je hoofd op mijn schouder leggen,
Kijk in je ogen, zie liefde daarin,
Onder mijn adem spreekt het woord;
Laat zijn waarheid ons brengen
Naar een plek van vreugde. Geen ander woord volstaat –



46 Responses to “Big Love”

  1. David,

    First I have to say what a beautiful poem this is. How one word could evoke such feeling is just wonderful. You have explained to me before the general meaning of this word and it does have a very gentle feel to it.

    And what an honour to have it translated too! The whole thing is quite fascinating!

    Well done to you for the poem and also to Ina for the translation!

    Love you loads

    (and if I am allowed to “steal” it – Arohanui)



    • Christine,

      The word enchanted me from the first moment I encountered it.
      It seemed to capture the essence of something which I believe in but have no word in English to express.
      My only hope when I wrote the poem was that I could do it justice.

      And, of course, you can “steal” it 🙂



  2. Hi David,

    This is very kind of you! Thank you very much for putting my translation here 🙂 .

    As you know, Arohanui was a word that came across my life years ago as well, I almost had forgotten about it though, till I saw it here again on the blog! This poem, from your lovely book “Belfast via Bedlam” is my favourite of yours, but I love them all.

    About the translation; I wanted to keep the essence of the poem, and also make sure the rhythm was kept, which meant I had to be a bit creative here and there. Not much though! 🙂 I also kept the interpunction and capitalisation the same.

    I think the title might have been Grote Liefde, as that is the more universal translation for Big Love, but in order to keep the syllables in the same amount, I choose for Groot Lief. That is an expression seldom used in Dutch, and it makes it sound more mysterious, like Arohanui still is to me. 🙂

    “Onder mijn opgen spreekt het woord ” might better be changed into “Onder mijn ogen klinkt het woord”. The lit. translation of the sentence used up to many syllables! 🙂

    I am pondering how to do the recording, and I shall send it to you shortly! 🙂

    Arohanui 🙂


  3. David, what a beautiful concept — Big Love. Even in English it has power, but then read it in the Maori, and it becomes even stronger, more wondrous. I think your poem evoked this thought very well — seems like your poem should be in a dictionary next to Arohanui.

  4. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    It’s a beautiful, touching poem!
    Big 🙂

    Wonderful thing languages, – been fascinated by them ever since I discovered them! and translating is a skill too – you are lucky having such a clever friend! 🙂

    with Love
    Vera with Karley

    • Big 🙂

      Language fascinates me too Vera.
      I do believe that all poems are written to be read out loud. That way we can hear the essence of the poem 🙂

      I too have great admiration for someone with the ability to be able to translate a poem – it requires a level of appreciation of the poem and of poetry, because a literal translation just will not do.
      Ina is a very talented lady.

      I hope both you and Karley have a very good week.
      How is Karley coping with her ‘retirement’?

      With Love

  5. Hi David,

    How wonderful to have such a beautiful poem translated! So nice of Ina as well to want to do this and apply her translation to your work. It must be a most interesting experiance and no doubt interesting too when you finally are able to listen to it being read. 🙂

    I would have to say Big Love is my favourtie poem. It has such a heartwarming tenderness and breathlessness about it.
    It also reminds me of our friendship and what a blessing it has been. Arohanui has certainly come to encapsulate our friendship for me, no, no other would do in our sign offs. 🙂

    Congratulations on being translated! 🙂 Who knows maybe one day in the future we will have a Dutch edition of your poems? 🙂

    and K’sOTC:-)

    • Hi Tikarma,

      You were there when I first encountered the word.
      And shared, I think, in the delight I found in the word.

      No little part of that was in discovering a word which allowed me to describe what our friendship meant to me 🙂

      So as you say – no other word will do –

      and K’sOTC 🙂

  6. What an honor,but I must say,this poem is gorgeous in English!! I love the feelings it evokes,and the smile it brought tome!! Hugs!!

  7. This poem flows & gently buffets with a warm, tactile ambience (:

  8. Was over at Ina’s blog and left a comment.

    Do you want it translated into Belfast lingo 😆

  9. Hi David,

    a beautiful poem! Ina did very well with the translation, in Dutch .
    Translations in another language are very difficult , because one has to keep as close as possible to the original poem.


    Mooie vertaling in het Nederlands,! Goed gedaan hoor! Ik zag een klein dingetje (tikfoutje?) en misschien wil je dat nog veranderen.

    *Je hoofd op mijn schouders leggen* zou eigenlijk *schouder* moeten zijn.

    Hartelijke groetjes,

  10. I have always thought that translations by poets of poems tends to make better translations. I cannot read Dutch, and sometimes wonder if I can really read English, but knowing Ina’s work, and admiring it, I suspect the translation is beautiful. If only I had had the self discipline to learn at least one other language!
    I would not be surprised to see David Agnew in a number of other languages one day. This poem is, as usual, brim-full of life and spilling over into joy:
    I let the syllables reverberate
    Across my tongue; its sound
    Moves out, slides down
    soft against my skin, touches
    The ground and echoes back;
    This is both sensual and is Arohanui in its essence, reaching inside while, in the same instant, living upon the skin and tongue. Its sensuality is matched by its spiritual essence, seeing love inside the eyes, feeling love leaning on your shoulder.
    Ina, congratulations too. You are so talented in so many ways…and now this. Your fortune and joy is good, David. Good.

    • wow Thomas, thank you very much. 🙂 But all credits for this poem are of course for David, I just translated it 🙂

    • Thank you Tom very much for this comment.

      My main concern when I wrote the poem was that I would not succeed in capturing the essence of what the word meant.

      Your comment greatly re-assures me.

      And I, like you, have the greatest admiration for someone like Ina who can not only speak and write in more than one language but can write beautiful poems in a second language.


  11. ‘I let the syllables reverberate Across my tongue’
    When I read a beautiful expression such as this, I get lost in wonder, shake my head and smile concurrently.

  12. a beautiful poem, David …. and wonderful to have a translation. i know a bit of German, which is similar. thing struck me most was how you captured that moment of when two come together for comfort. that type of enhanced security coupled with faith …. when all you need to bring to the table is need.

    • Thank you Eileen,

      “when all you need to bring to the table is need”
      A phrase which sums it all up really –
      particularly when you trust enough to know that you can do that!!

      Take care


  13. Hi eebrinker, I think in German it would be something like:

    Große Liebe

    Ich ließ die Silben nachhallen
    Über meine (meiner?) Zunge; sein Ton
    Bewegt sich heraus, schiebt nach unten
    Zärtlich gegen meine Haut,
    findet der Boden und Echot sich zurück;
    Einfassend, umschlägt mich in der Wärme
    Komfort, Sicherheit der Liebe.

    Ich ziehe dich (dir?) zu mir (mich?), ließ
    Deinen Kopf auf meiner Schulter setzen,
    Untersuche deine Augen,
    Sehe Liebe darin.
    Unter meinem Atem spreche ich das Wort;
    Lass ihre Wesentliches uns beide zeichnen
    In einen Ort der Freude. Kein anderes Wort genügt –


    My German sucks big time, so please don’t see this as a proper translation 🙂 but just to give an idea. I think it is a bit different from Dutch. 🙂 The ß is made by touching alt gr + s almost the same time.

  14. ließ is the past tense btw lol. (I had to look it up and got the wrong tense 🙂 ) Lasse is the present tense.

  15. Oh, so very beautiful!!!! Took my breath away…. thank you for posting this, David.

  16. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    Can I help?
    (I spoke German before I learned English 🙂

    Grosse Liebe

    Ich lasse die Silben nachhallen,
    Über meine Zunge, bewegt sich
    der Ton heraus, hinunter schiebend,
    Sanft neben meiner Haut, berührt
    Den Grund und widerhallt,
    Umgebend, mich in Wärme hüllend,
    Komfort, Geborgenheit der Liebe.

    Ich ziehe Dich zu mir, lass Deinen
    Kopf auf meiner Schulter ruhen,
    Schaue in deine Augen und sehe Liebe darin
    Unter meinem Atem sage ich das Wort,
    Lasse sein Wesen uns beide
    Zu einem Ort der Freude bringen.
    Kein anderes Wort reicht –


    with Love

  17. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    Oh! I meant to tell you Ina
    that they have officially stopped using the ß in Germany, only use double “s” instead – pity too 🙂

  18. Ich lasse die Silben nachhallen ,
    Über meine Zunge; sein Klang
    Bewegt sich heraus , immer niedriger, rutscht
    lieblich gegen meiner Haut, berührte
    Den Boden und wirf zurück;
    Umgibt, hüllt mich in Wärme
    Beruhigend, Sicherheit der Liebe.

    Ich ziehe dich zu mir, dass du
    dein Kopf an meiner Schulter legen kannst ,
    In deinen Augen schau ich, sehe Liebe darin.
    Unter meinem Atem spreche Ich das Wort;
    Lasse die Essenz uns beide zeichnen
    Zu einen Ort der Freude. Kein anderes Wort genügt.

    Hi Vera, this is what Francina and I came up with after a lot of mailng to each other:) Of course yours is correct, as it is your Mutter Sprache. It is fun to see what we did wrong though lol.

    I still get letters and postcards with the ringel S in them, I had no idea it wasn’t used officially anymore, I had German in school over 40 years ago. Thank you very much for giving the right translation! 🙂

    Danke Schön 🙂 und viele Grüße! Now who can do it in French??

    • I think Komfort is not correct here, as it is used for furniture and such? Not for comforting someone?

      • Oh wait, I see now the meaning of comfort in English might be different here than I initially thought 🙂 A real translator should always check with the author of the poem! 🙂

  19. I tried to do the French translation: (I was married to a man once with whom I could only speak French,in which we, technically speaking, both rather sucked, it wasn’t his language eitther, still we usually understood each other somehow) I am not good in French verbs.

    Grand amour

    Je laisse les syllabes résonnent
    En travers de ma langue; le son
    Se mouvait, glisse plus bas
    Doux contre ma peau, touche
    Le sol et répecute,
    M’entoure, m’enveloppes dans la chaleur
    Confort, sécurité de l’amour.

    Je te tirais à moi, je te laisse
    Mets ta tête sur mon épaule,
    Regarde dans tes yeux, voir l’amour la.
    Desous m’ haleine je parle un mot;
    Laissez son essence portons nous deux
    Dans un lieu de joie. Aucun autre mot ne peut pas passer –


    I hope someone can do this better 🙂

  20. Thank you, Vera.. for the correct translation. It is nice to see the poem in correct German!

    Ciao, Francina

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