Poem by Remco Campert

I was sure that I was missing something
but couldn’t say what
so I forgot about it as I walked down the street,
at ease with the here and now in my Amsterdam
never closed, open night and day.

But the sense that I had been deprived of something
crept up on me and filled me with yearning
for something I felt I had lost:
this building and the idea of it
which hoarded the splendour of the past
out of which our present is born every day.

Without the past our present cannot hold,
we are empty and without form,
our existence, which endures longer than today, remains unsure.

Of this endurance, stretching towards eternity
this building was the symbol,
but the entrance was barred,
the door had closed to,
and this city also, this land, this nation
seemed no longer to open up,
but was sealed off from its past.

Now that I knew what I was missing
the long wait could begin –
ten years of slow days
ten years of wakeful nights –
till what was to come would be disclosed.

But today, 13 April 2013,
past and future are once more open
and my old story can now be heard
in a new spring and a new building,
our country, our museum,
the museum of our country,
our Rijksmuseum.

(Translated from the Dutch by Donald Gardner)

foto Remco Campert