Dutch linguist/astronomer/poet Adwaita (pseudonym of J.A. dèr Mouw, 1863 - 1919):
I am Brahman. But we are without a maid.
Around the house there's one thing I can do:
I fill the wash-basin and have no clue,
hence always spill and have the cloth mislaid.
She says this work is to a man taboo.
And I feel helpless and myself I upbraid,
when she has my own clumsiness repaid
by serving me her magic, steamy stew.
And I revered but Him, who does unfold
in fairy scene of world, of art and knowledge:
when she does enter with my plate of porridge
and I her wrinkled fingertips behold,
my one burning adoration expands
from Sun, Bach, Kant to her calloused hands.
(translation Remco van der Zwaag, revised SB)
More about the author:
Johan Andreas dèr Mouw was born in 1863, two years before Verwey, but although he had written poetry for many years, he did not publish any until he was 54. Then, in 1918, his work suddenly began to appear almost simultaneously in De Beweging, De Nieuwe Gids and the weekly paper De Amsterdammer. Like several other poets of his generation, he was a classicist, and also a philosopher of repute, with an extensive knowledge of mathematics and science. As a philosopher he was strongly opposed to Hegel, and especially to the neo-Hegelians. It was in fact, his dislike of Hegel's system-building which led him, without turning away from European philosophy, to become more and more immersed in the systemless Indian philosophy of the Upanishads. There he found the expression of the unity of the Cosmos and the Self which was to become the mainspring of his poetry. Unity is the key-word of his work, and Brahman the symbol of the unity: that which comprises everything without forcing it into a system. He published his poetry, the two volumes Brahman I and Brahman II (1919 and 1921) under the Sanskrit name of Adwaita, that is ‘he who has overcome duality’.
Dèr Mouw was a mystic whose main poetic theme was that of the ‘unio mystica’. But as a mystic he was a class apart. His poetry was sometimes ecstatic, but always remained well-reasoned, very precise and nearly always cast in the strict form of the sonnet; it was deeply serious and at the same time humorous; it was philosophical, making considerable demands on its readers, but it was also couched in a most unexpected everyday language. The traditional hierarchy of values, which assumed that elevated thought was best expressed in elevated language, held no meaning for him. One of his best-known sonnets in Brahman I begins with the line: ‘K ben Brahman. Maar we zitten zonder meid’ (I am Brahman. But we are without a maid), and ends:
Dan voel ik éénzelfde adoratie branden
Voor Zon, Bach, Kant, en haar vereelte handen.4
In 1919 this was too unconventional to find much response outside the small circle of Verwey, Kloos and Van Eeden. After his death in 1919 he was soon forgotten, and was only
rediscovered several years later by the writers of the Forum group. The poetry of Dèr Mouw was the crown of the ‘poetry of the thought’ which was so close to Verwey's heart, but it also marked its conclusion. It was almost symbolical that De Beweging ceased publication in 1919, the year of Dèr Mouw's death.