COBUS ON DEATH.
(From The Good Hope. A Sea play by H. Heijermans.
Translated by Christopher St. John.)
Cobus. —It’s a good job for Daan that he’s unconscious. He’s frightened of death.
Clementine. —Why, so is everyone, Cobus.
Cobus. —Everyone? I’m not so sure. If my turn came to-morrow, I should
think to myself:——We must all come to it—all the water in the sea can’t keep it
away. God gives—God takes. You see how it is . . . now don’t laugh . . . God
takes us, and we take the fish. On the fifth day He created the beasts of the sea, and
all the creeping things that abound in the waters . . . and he said “Be fruitful,” and
blessed ’em, and the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And on the sixth day
He made man . . . Well, you may notice He said very much the same to man. And
the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Why do you laugh ? It’s easy
enough to laugh, but I tell you it all comes clear when you’re out herring fishing.
Sometimes I was quite afraid to split and clean the fish . . . When you take a herring’s
head and run your knife into him till the yellow oozes out—I tell you the fish looks at
you with such an expression—well, you feel ashamed! Yet you split two casks full in
an hour and cut off 1,400 heads. 1,400 heads! That means 2,800 eyes looking at you—
just looking—always looking. How many fish haven’t I killed ! There were few so
good at splitting a herring as I was! The fish were frightened, frightened, I tell you.
They looked up at the clouds as if to say: “God blessed us as well as you.” What do
you make of that? I say, we take the fish, and God takes us. We must all die—beasts
must die, and men must die … We must all come to it . . . but we can’t all come
to it together. That would be like turning a full cask into an empty one. I might be
frightened if I stayed behind in the empty cask . . . but not if we all went together into
the other cask. To be frightened is nothing … to be frightened only means you’ve
stood on tiptoe and looked over the edge . . .
Heijermans, H. “Cobus on Death,” translated by Christopher St. John,The Green Sheaf vol. 6, 1903, p. 12. Green Sheaf Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021. https://1890s.ca/GSV6-heijermans-cobus/