Totius (poet)

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Front cover of the poem volume Trekkerswee

Jacob Daniël du Toit (21 February 1877 – 1 July 1953), better known by his pen name Totius, was an Afrikaner poet.

Life[edit]

The poet D.J. Opperman (Awper-mun) compiled brief biographical notes[1] in Afrikaans about Totius/du Toit. Du Toit began his education at the Huguenot Memorial School at Daljosafat in the Cape (1883–1885). He then moved to a German mission school named Morgensonne near Rustenburg from 1888 to 1890 before returning, between 1890 and 1894, to his original school at Daljosafat. Later he attended a theological college at Burgersdorp before becoming a military chaplain with the Boer Commandos during the Second Boer War. After the war, he studied at the Free University in Amsterdam and was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Theology.[2] He became an ordained minister of the Reformed Church of South Africa and from 1911 he was a professor at the Theological College of this Reformed Church in Potchefstroom. As a mature man he travelled to the Netherlands and Palestine and his impressions of these visits to foreign lands are included in the collection Skemering (1948). (The word Skemering is a pun and difficult to translate. It can relate to "Twilight" but also to "faint recollection").

Du Toit was a deeply religious man and a conservative one in most senses. His small son died at a tender age of an infection and his young daughter, Wilhelmina, was killed by lightning, falling into his arms dead as she ran towards him. He recorded this calamity in the poem "O die pyn-gedagte" (literally "Oh the pain-thoughts").

Du Toit was responsible for much of the translation of the Bible into Afrikaans, finishing what his father Stephanus Jacobus du Toit had begun. He also put a huge amount of work into producing poetical versions of the Psalms in Afrikaans. His poetry was in the main lyrical and dealt, inter alia, with faith, nature, British imperialism and the Afrikaner nation. He left behind many collections of poems, including Trekkerswee (1915; “Trekkers' Grief”) and Passieblomme (1934; “Passion Flowers”).

His poetry[edit]

One of the poems from Skemering was translated by C.J.D Harvey[3] as follows:

"Night at Sea – Near Aden"
Nothing but sea and darkness everywhere
as when the earth was desolate and void
and o'er the world-pool hung night, unalloyed


No star and no horizon visible,
no sight or sign the wandering eye to guide,
I hear only the waves beating the side.


Though she sails always on, she now sails blind,
the prow thrusts forward, cleaving through the night.
Only upon the compass, shafts of light.[4]

Another poem, from Passieblomme, translated by J.W. Marchant:

"The World is not our Dwelling Place"
The world is not our dwelling place
I see this in the sun that flees
and see it in the heron that, mistrustfully,
the same sun sees
on one leg from the reedy dale
and once the final rays are gone
a chill spills from this queachy lea
a frigid thrill runs right through me
I see it then in everything
that dusk throws round me in a ring
the world is not our dwelling place
The world is not our dwelling place
I see it when the moon blood red
rising from its field-dust bed
still (only just) the church-roof pares
from where an owl, abstrusely dumb,
sits and at that crescent stares.
As it grows quiet down the way
I recollect how, late today,
the mourners of the afternoon
emerged where owl now meets the moon
I mark it then in everything
while even tightens in a ring
the world is not our dwelling place
The world is not our dwelling place
I feel it when the winds awake
and oaken branches clash and break
I hear it in the fluttering
of little birds whose wings are thrown
against the branches smashed and blown
and find on coming closer yet
by moonbeam's vacillating light
a nest of fledglings overset
hurled down by tempest, shattered, dead
and feel it then in everything
as nighttime closes in a ring
the world is not our dwelling place

References[edit]

  1. ^ (1) Opperman, D.J. Undated; probably 1962. Senior Verseboek. Nationale Boekhandel Bpk, Kaapstad. Negende Druk, 185pp. Translation for Wikipedia by J.W. Marchant 2005.
  2. ^ (2) Schirmer, P. 1980. The concise illustrated South African Encyclopaedia. Central News Agency, Johannesburg. First edition, about 211pp.
  3. ^ (3) AP Grove and CJD Harvey. Afrikaans Poems with English Translations. Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1969.

External links[edit]