Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish Poetry’

Delmira Agustini (October 24, 1886 – July 6, 1914)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Nudo

Su idilio fue una larga sonrisa a cuatro labios…
En el regazo cálido de rubia primavera
Amáronse talmente que entre sus dedos sabios
Palpitó la divina forma de la Quimera.

 

 

En los palacios fúlgidos de las tardes en calma
Hablábanse un lenguaje sentido como un lloro,
Y se besaban hondo hasta morderse el alma!…
Las horas deshojáronse como flores de oro,

 

 

Y el Destino interpuso sus dos manos heladas…
Ah! los cuerpos cedieron, mas las almas trenzadas
Son el más intrincado nudo que nunca fue…
En lucha con sus locos enredos sobrehumanos
Las Furias de la vida se rompieron las manos
Y fatigó sus dedos supremos Ananké…

 

 

 

Delmira Agustini

Los cantos de la mañana, 1910

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knot

Their idyll was a smile of four lips…                     
In the warm lap of blond spring
They loved such that between their wise fingers
the divine form of Chimera trembled.

 

 

 

 

In the glimmering palaces of quiet afternoons
They spoke in a language heartfelt as weeping,
And they kissed each other deeply, biting the soul!
The hours fluttered away like petals of gold,

 


Then Fate interposed its two icy hands…
Ah! the bodies yielded, but tangled souls
Are the most intricate knot that never unfolds…
In strife with its mad superhuman entanglements,
Life’s Furies rent their coupled hands
And wearied your powerful fingers, Ananké*…

 

 

 

*Ananke: Goddess of Unalterable Necessity

Translation Valerie Martínez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al Claro de Luna

La luna es pálida y triste, la luna es exangüe y yerta.    
La media luna figúraseme un suave perfil de muerta…
Yo que prefiero a la insigne palidez encarecida
De todas las perlas árabes, la rosa recién abierta,

 

 

En un rincón del terruño con el color de la vida,
Adoro esa luna pálida, adoro esa faz de muerta!
Y en el altar de las noches, como una flor encendida
Y ebria de extraños perfumes, mi alma la inciensa rendida.

 

 

 

Yo sé de labios marchitos en la blasfemia y el vino,
Que besan tras de la orgia sus huellas en el camino;
Locos que mueren besando su imagen en lagos yertos…
Porque ella es luz de inocencia, porque a esa luz misteriosa
Alumbran las cosas blancas, se ponen blancas las cosas,
Y hasta las almas más negras toman clarores inciertos!

 

 

 

Delmira Agustini 
El libro blanco, 1907

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Light of the Moon

The moon is pallid and sad, the moon is bloodless and cold.
I imagine the half-moon as a profile of the dead…
And beyond the renowned and praised pallor
Of Arab pearls, I prefer the rose in recent bud.

 

 

In a corner of this land with the colors of earth,
I adore this pale moon, I adore this death mask!
And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed,
Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns.

 

 

 

I know of lips withered with blasphemy and wine;
After an orgy they kiss her trace in the lane.
Insane ones who die kissing her image in lakes…
Because she is light of innocence, because white things
Illuminate her mysterious light, things taking on white,
And even the blackest souls become uncertainly bright.

 

 

 

Translation Valerie Martínez

ASLM810

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfonsina Storni (May 29, 1892 – October 25, 1938)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palabras a Delmira Agustini

Estás muerta y tu cuerpo, bajo uruguayo manto,
Descansa de su fuego, se limpia de su llama.
Sólo desde tus libros tu roja lengua llama
Como cuando vivías, al amor y al encanto.

 

 

Hoy, si un alma de tantas, sentenciosa y oscura,
Con palabras pesadas va a sangrarte el oído,
Encogida en tu pobre cajoncito roído
No puedes contestarle desde tu sepultura.

 

 

 

Pero sobre tu pecho, para siempre deshecho,
Comprensivo vigila, todavía, mi pecho,
Y, si ofendida lloras por tus cuencas abiertas,

 

 

Tus lágrimas heladas, con mano tan liviana
Que más que mano amiga parece mano hermana,
Te enjugo dulcemente las tristes cuencas muertas.

Alfonsina Storni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words to Delmira Augustini

You are dead and your body under an Uruguayan mantle
Rests from its fire, cleansed of its soul
Since now solely from your books does your red tongue call
As when you lived, to love, and to enchant.

 

 

 

If today, a soul among the many judgmental and dark
Comes to bleed your ear with ponderous words
Huddled in your poor crumbling little casket
You cannot answer it, from your grave.

 

 

But upon your breast, undone forever                  
My breast ever keeps tender vigil
And if offended your empty sockets should weep
Your frozen tears such a delicate hand.
A hand more than that of a friend, but the hand of a sweetheart*
Will wipe them sweetly away from the sad dead hollows.

 

 

 

*The word hermana used here indicates a relationship deeper than friends but not quite that of lovers.

Translation Dia Tsung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfonsina y el mar

Por la blanda arena que lame el mar
su pequeña huella no vuelve más,
un sendero solo de pena y silencio
llegó hasta el agua profunda,
un sendero solo de penas mudas
llegó hasta la espuma.

 

 

 

 

Sabe Dios qué angustia te acompañó
qué dolores viejos calló tu voz,
para recostarte arrullada en el canto
de las caracolas marinas
la canción que canta,
en el fondo oscuro del mar, la caracola.

 

 

 

 

Te vas Alfonsina con tu soledad

qué poemas nuevos fuiste a buscar,
una voz antigua de viento y de sal,
te requiebra el alma y la está llevando,
y te vas hacia allá como en sueños,
dormida Alfonsina, vestida de mar.

 
Cinco sirenitas te llevarán
por caminos de algas y de coral,
y fosforescentes caballos marinos
harán una ronda a tu lado,
y los habitantes del agua
van a jugar pronto a tu lado.

 

 

Bájame la lámpara un poco más
déjame que duerma, nodriza en paz,
y si llama él no le digas que estoy
dile que Alfonsina no vuelve
y si llama él no le digas nunca que estoy,
di que me he ido.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Te vas Alfonsina con tu soledad              
qué poemas nuevos fuiste a buscar,
una voz antigua de viento y de sal
que requiebra el alma y la está llevando,
y te vas hacia allá, como en sueños,
dormida Alfonsina, vestida de mar.

 

 

 

 

Félix Luna lyrics

Ariel Ramírez music

Ariel Ramírez (4 September 1921 – 18 February 2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Félix Luna (September 30, 1925 – November 5, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfonsina and the Sea

To the soft sand which is lapped by the sea
your little footprint return no more,
only  a path, a trail of pain and silence
reaching  up to the deep water,
only a path of silent torment
reaching up to the foam.

 

God knows what anguish accompanied you
What ancient suffering silenced  your voice,
to lean back, lulled in the song
of the  seashells
the song which they sing
on the deep darkness of the sea, the conch.

 

 

You went, Alfonsina with your solitude
To find what new poems are left to be found,
An ancient voice of the wind and the salt,
to shatter your soul and convey you,
and you go yonder as in dreams,
Alfonsina asleep, adorned with the sea.

 

 

 

 

 
Five little sirens will bear you
on paths of algæ and coral
and phosphorescent sea horses
encircle  your side,
and the inhabitants of the water
soon come to sport beside you

 

 

 

 

Lower the lamp for me, slightly
Let me sleep, o nurse, in peace
and if he calls, tell him I’m not here
tell him Alfonsina will not return
And if he calls, tell him nothing about me
simply say I have gone away.

 

 

 
You went, Alfonsina with your solitude
To find what new poems are left to be found,
An ancient voice of the wind and the salt,
to shatter your soul and convey you,
and you go yonder as in dreams,
Alfonsina asleep, adorned with the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

Translation Dia Tsung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfonsina y el mar, sung by Mercedes Sosa

 

 

 

 

 

These ripples of remembrance and commemoration, are tributes which spread out from the life of Delmira Agustini, an Uruguayan poet of Italian descent, who was murdered by her husband Enrique Reyes, a month after she had divorced him. Agustini had been married to Reyes for a month when the divorce was granted.

Agustini was emphatically a modern poet, who asserted her female voice in a time and place when women were not supposed to publicly assert either themselves or their work.  Her poems were powerful, personal and lyrical, and brought her both fame and notoriety. Fortunately many of her poems, together with English translations, can be found on the web,  and they are well worth finding and reading.  This is a list of her published work.

1907: El libro blanco
1910: Cantos de la mañana
1913: Los cálices vacíos, pórtico de Rubén Darío
1924: Obras completas “Complete Works”: Volume 1, El rosario de Eros; Volume 2: Los astros del abismo, posthumously published, Montevideo, Uruguay: Máximo García
1944: Poesías, prologue by Luisa Luisi Motevideo, Claudio García & Co.
1971: Poesías completas, prólogue and notes by Manuel Alvar, Barcelona: Editorial Labor

Alfonsina Storni, an Argentinian writer and poet of Italian descent, commited suicide by walking into the sea (the Mar del Plata) in 1938, a year after the suicide of her close friend and fellow writer, the Uruguayan/Argentinan (both countries claim him) Horacio Quiroga. She had been suffering from breast cancer. There are many articles on her work and life to be found on the web. This is a link to the Britannica thumbnail listed under her name.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/567660/Alfonsina-Storni

Félix Luna is listed in Wikipedia as “a prominent Argentine writer, lyricist and historian.” Luna was born on September 30th 1925, Happy Birthday five hours from now Mr. Luna.

I don’t know how coincidences occur, but when I decided to post a couple of poems by Delmira Agustini today, I was led to a tribute to her written by Alfonsina Storni. From there I was led to the poem dedicated to Storni written by Félix Luna. I then found the poem had been set to music by Ariel Ramírez, and found the beautiful version of the song sung by Mercedes Sosa.

Read Full Post »

Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor (circa 1582 – January 22, 1610).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A la ligereza y pérdida del tiempo

¡Con qué ligeros pasos vas corriendo!
¡Oh cómo te me ausentas, tiempo vano!
¡Ay, de mi bien, y de mi ser tirano,
cómo tu altivo brazo voy siguiendo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detenerte pensé, pasaste huyendo;
seguíte, y ausentástete liviano;
gastéte a ti en buscarte, ¡oh inhumano!: 
mientras más te busqué, te fui perdiendo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ya conozco tu furia, ya, humillado,
de tu guadaña pueblo los despojos;
¡oh amargo desengaño no admitido! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciego viví, y al fin, desengañado,
hecho Argos de mi mal con tristes ojos
huir te veo, y veo te he perdido.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On how time flees and is lost

With what light steps I see you running by!
Oh how you forsake and leave me, Time so vain!
Aye, tyrant of all my goods, and of my self,
Oh how your high-handedness now makes me feel!

 

 

 

I thought to detain you, but you fled away,
To follow you, but blithely you went speeding.
In seeking I squandered you, Oh inhuman one!
The more I sought you, the more of you I lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I know your fury, now admit I’m humbled,
By your scythe’s sweep is made a town of the despoiled,
Oh harsh disappointment, I still cannot accept!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Blind did I live, now at last being undeceived,
An Argus made of my ills, with saddened eyes
I see you flee, see now that you are lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translation Dia Tsung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor, who wrote this sonnet, has been associated with the style referred to as Culteranismo, which in turn is classed as a development of the style called Góngorismo, after Luis de Góngora, one of the foremost poets of the Siglo de Oro, the golden age of Spanish literature.

Comparing de Carrillo y Sotmayor to Góngora seems to me inept and unfair, since Góngora’s style is overly-embellished, wordy, windy and bloated. It is replete with worthless classical conceits, and quiet bereft of real emotion and real meaning. De Carrillo’s is decidedly not.

I have not, by any means, read all of Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor’s work, but the poems I have read do not reveal any of the vanity and prolixity so typical of Góngora, so I am left figuratively scratching my head, and wondering why I am unable to see what common characteristics (besides language) are to be found in the work of these two men.

The genuine sense of distress, and regret and frustration in this poem, which sounds and feels as if it had been written by a much older man and not one in his twenties, seems difficult to fathom. Francisco Quevedo y Villegas gives the year of Carrillo’s birth as 1582, which means de Carrillo was only about 28 years old when died, and a young man by any account.Though I could find no mention of any physical infirmity in any of the biographical material about him I came across on line, I wondered if de Carrillo might have had a premonition of his early death. Why else would he feel so acutely the sense of being imposed upon and cheated by time?

Did this man feel he had arrived at the end of his life without having achieved his goals and ambitions? Or was there some other cause for great unhappiness?

There is insufficient information in the historical record to answer these questions, and precious little personal information. So it seems, we must satisfy ourselves by trying to understand the state of mind in which this poem was composed and written.

These seem to me to be the words of a man who is unable to see himself in time’s reflection. There is a sense of something more than loss, which to me resembles rejection and erasure. He is absented – he cannot move out of time – yet time speeds away without him. He seems to be in a state of shock, as he realises that there is no temporal fixity. He on the other hand has been fixed by time, in such a wise, that the distance between him and that fast receding figure of Time grows ever longer.

Time is forever, and he is made of the mortal stuff which soon returns to dust. There is a real sense of mortality, and of desperation, and of a painful realisation, which seems likely to have been based on an event, about which we have not been given any hints.

Nor is there any hint of him reaching reflexively for the religious consolations normally resorted to in such moments of exigency. One gets the feeling that he knows it would do him no good to reflect on the fact that he is made in God’s image, if that image is only too susceptible to decay. It would seem that when Time disappeared into the unfathomable distance, de Carrillo found himself staring into the void.

Time is a thing that clocks measure, but we ourselves are clocks – we are the measure of time, even though our parts, unlike the works of clocks, wear out much sooner. We are the battleground of flux and fixity,  and even as we try to hold our place in space and time, they recede and leave us behind. Flux always wins. The question which seems to be asked in this poem, though it is not made explicit, is, “if matter does not matter, what is left that does matter?”

And if the answer is “nothing”, then what is there left to do but despair?

Read Full Post »

Juana Inés de la cruz (12 November 1651 – 17 April 1695)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soneto 164

En que satisface un recelo con la retórica del llanto.

 

Esta tarde, mi bien, cuando te hablaba,
como en tu rostro y tus acciones vía
que con palabras no te persuadía,
que el corazón me vieses deseaba;

 

 

y Amor, que mis intentos ayudaba,
venció lo que imposible parecía:
pues entre el llanto, que el dolor vertía,
el corazón deshecho destilaba.

 

 

 

Baste ya de rigores, mi bien, baste:
no te atormenten más celos tiranos,
ni el vil recelo tu inquietud contraste

 

 

 

con sombras necias, con indicios vanos,
pues ya en líquido humor viste y tocaste
mi corazón deshecho entre tus manos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonnet 164

In which she allays mistrust with the rhetoric of tears.

 

This evening, my love, as I with you I was speaking,
When on your face, your feelings I observed,
And when my words I saw could not persuade you
To see whereof it was my heart desired,

 

 

Love came to my aid, to help me with my cause
And win what seemed to be beyond achieving.
Then between the ache and flooding tears
Was the essence of my dismantled heart distilled.

 

 

 

Enough my love, be done with harshness: Cease!
Neither let tyranny and jealousy torment you
Nor let vile suspicions your concern obstruct

 

 

With foolish shadows tinged with vanities,
When now in liquid form you see and touch
My heart unmade, undone, within your hands.

 

 

Translation Dia Tsung.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is late afternoon or evening somewhere in the Colonial Mexico of over three centuries ago. Dusk has not yet fallen, and two young women are locked together in the grip of shared emotion. Tears are shed, words, exchanged, and a lovers’ quarrel or lovers’ misunderstanding is being intently addressed. One of the women  is a noble of the viceregal court, in fact she is  married to no less a personage than the viceroy of Mexico himself. The other is a nun and a poet.

Perhaps the evening light pouring through the window finds them ensconced in a quiet room, the nun’s private quarters, a large room filled with hundreds books and several scientific instruments, or perhaps they are in a secluded spot in the palace grounds or a convent garden. They are alone in each others’ company.

The nun is speaking urgently and sincerely, trying to persuade and convince the lady that she has no need to feel tormented. In fact, it is the nun who has the most cause to be jealous and suspicious, because it is the lady who has other calls on her affections. But since it is the nun who happens to be the gallant in this pairing, it is she who must minister to the other’s need.

It may appear to an onlooker – if indeed there was one to watch the scene form behind a tree or a curtain (as we the readers do now) – that the scene is simply of one woman pleading with another to not be upset. But what we are really seeing is a highly skilled emotional operation – that of open-heart surgery.

The chest is cut open, and delved into. It must be so, because all the symptoms of lovesickness so dictate. Acute longing, ardent emotions, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, tears and pent-up emotion have brought about a crisis. It is a tender but dangerous moment, and must be handled with the greatest care. The cause of all the trouble, jealousy,  mistrust, disquiet and suspicion, must be found, and lovingly addressed.

Everyone longs for this –  to not have to speak or explain, but to have one’s expressions, one’s feelings, perfectly intuited, one’s mind read, one’s heart seen into and touched, the vulnerary applied, the wound soothed and dressed and set well on its way to healing. Does the lover exist who who does not fervently long for this –  For her lover to see what is worrying and disturbing her and to tenderly  and gently administer the remedy?

And all this must be accomplished before the lady will consent to wipe away the tears of the nun, for the tears are a required propitiation, the price that must be paid. The nun’s tears are the proof of her devotion and of her surrender.

Therefore she must be assiduous. She must enter and delve into the lady’s heart, leaving nothing undone to appease it and heal it, to reassure and restore calm. She must not  seem detached, but be fully engaged in every instant. Her skill as a lover and a psychologist must exceed even her skill as a poet. All, and not just some, of the ingredients of healing an emotional wound must present, a wonderfully deft treatment and a profound understanding of female psychology must be brought to bear if the destructive event is to be made to pass peacefully. Complete healing is required, and not mere amelioration.

As we watch, we see that such is her perfection of insight and comprehension she that she is able to formulate and express the other’s feelings, to speak for her. She knows the torment of jealousy is corrosive, and with her unwonted skill she must catch it at its inception and lead the way from confusion to comprehension, and from the heavy sense of unknowing within the clouds of feeling into a peaceful clarity, yet remain within the ambiance of the cloud. She must understand the nature of limmerance (a ‘psychosis’ of sorts, related to falling in love, of limited duration and a word which will not be invented for several centuries), and reason must be so sweetened as to please, and  to not be rejected.

The nun seems to have succeeded in assuring the doubter of her love and of her constancy. It was as if Thomas did not even have to lift a finger to have his doubts and  suspicions allayed, but that Christ had himself tenderly taken the hand of the doubter and placed it on the wound. The one with a greater wound heals the one with the lesser.  Surely the lady, though married, possessed a vastly more ample freedom than the cloistered nun, and far less cause for jealousy. Nevertheless, she is the one who now receives the other’s care and comfort.

This is a profound feat of healing, requiring a perfect touch, almost an excess of skill, like a surgeon, a doctor, diagnosing, opening up the body, removing the obstruction, applying the remedy, closing the wound, and then caring for the post-operative trauma of the patient.

Nor, I surmise, was the lady disappointed. Her emotions were read and  sedulously interpreted. She was reassured and comforted. The storm  has spent itself into a gentle rain. The last line with its erotic tinge suggests that thirst has been quenched and all is refreshed with he tears which have been shed onto her palms. It is as if  though at first, in the kind of at-sea-ness of love, she has been safely guided to the shore.

This is one of  Juana Inés’s best-known poems, I wonder if it is it a scene from the past she recalls, or is it more immediate? An old memory? Did she present the lady with this sonnet the following day, or did she dispatch a servant of the convent  to carry it to the viceregal court, accompanied perhaps with a box of the best convent confections?  Or did she write it years later, when the lady had long since left for Spain, and when the news of her death reached Juana Inés in Mexico?

The poet is a secret jeweller and goldsmith, who is well able to recognise a gem, to hold it until the right moment, which may come years later, and cut and polish it and persuade it to reveal its inherent brilliance and glory in a setting of her apt devising. It demands seemingly mutually exclusive skills, those of complete immersion and complete objectiveness.  But if not objective but still in love, at what pains was she to achieve the distance to create this accurate account and set it in a sonnet from like a gem in an elegant ring?

Perhaps it is the inspiration of the personal transcending Muse who is able to transmute the variegated mass of personal feeling into the clear colour of  flawless poetry.

“Love came to my aid,” writes Juana Inés, but what was ‘Love’, if not her own intuition, and her own virtuosity in matters of love?

 

Read Full Post »

In lieu of an image of Francisco de Medrano, (1570 – 1607) this portrait by El Greco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know not how or when or what it was

I know not how or when or what it was        
I felt, that me replete with sweetness made.
I know but to my arms such beauty came
To partake with me of bliss so avidly.

 

 

I know she came, although with shrinking look,
Almost, I could not then withstand her face,
So stunned was I, as one in obscure night
Loses his bearings, and dares not take a step.

 

Following this great bliss, astonishment – or dream –
I knew not when, nor how, nor what had been
That made all sense and senses quiescent seem.

 

 

 

 

To know nothing at all is yet to know,
So slight is that which merely sense can grasp –
A compass which the soul alone could fit.

 

 

 

 

Translation Dia Tsung.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No sé cómo, ni cuándo, ni qué cosa

No sé cómo, ni cuándo, ni qué cosa         
sentí, que me llenaba de dulzura;
sé que llegó a mis brazos la hermosura,
de gozarse conmigo codiciosa;

 

 
sé que llegó, si bien, con temerosa
vista resistí apenas su figura;
luego pasmé, como el que en noche oscura
perdido el tino, el pie mover no osa.

 

 

Siguió un gran gozo a aqueste pasmo, o sueño;
no sé cuándo  ni cómo  ni qué ha sido,
que lo sensible todo puso en calma.

 

 

 

Ignorarlo es saber; que es bien pequeño
el que puede abarcar solo el sentido,
y éste pudo caber en sola la alma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I set out to attempt the translation of a poem, I usually resort to pen and ink. The keyboard does not connect with my brain as when my hand accepts the task of forming letters. The liquid ink seeping into the paper, the angle of the nib, and even the necessity of coaxing the pen, all play their part in how my mind is enabled to enter the poem. The movement of the hand, helped by the pen, the ink and the paper, forms a system of communication with the mind, as it simultaneously tries to work on several levels.  As the stream of one language flows in, it is welcomed by a different one, and words are exchanged and greeted – or asked to leave. The sound and rhythm is a music provided by an invisible conductor and musicians in the back of the room, and a helpful adviser of sorts sits off to the side at a desk and  busily sorts out the words, explaining  their meanings and deciding on their suitability.

Over all these, there hovers an unseen, but powerfully-felt presence, who draws in all the participants, placing them in accord with each other, while containing the indispensable sense of wholeness  and protecting the atmosphere within  where all things seem to flow within a suspended space.

In order for any of this to happen, the original work must first cast its spell on me, place my mind in accord with its own frequency. I feel this as an indescribable  sensation, which seems to make itself felt in a soundless buzzing behind my forehead, and a feeling of ‘lifting up’ on the top of my head. My hair feels somewhat detached, and there is a tingling along the outsides of my ears.

First drafts, with all their flaws, create the most excitement. All the collaborators work hard to play their parts, and then come the second and third, and as many drafts as are needed in order to feel that there is a ‘fit.’  Then sometimes there has to follow a hiatus – a time of separation and detachment, since the synthesis of all the players makes  further discrimination impossible at that moment.

After that there is a return. The words have determined their places on the page, and have been able to work out their differences, and they have made decisions about where they wish to be placed. Some must leave, and there is a flurry of rearrangement, and some newcomers arrive.  The musicians again begin to play, and the lexical entities determine if they are in accord with their vocable counterparts.  A sober schoolmistress is invited to sit at the head of the classroom, and the students present themselves to her. Sometimes she is pleased, and gives them her nod.  Sometimes she shakes her head and says nothing, and sometimes she comes up with a suggestion, but sometimes she walks out without a word.

Without the Muse there are no acceptable translations – that is if her presence has been evoked in the original work to begin with. Only the Muse can help the translator to mediate between two languages without falling  away from chastity into falsehood. Her stern insistence on clean hands and devoted mind are the only assurance that no lies will  spoken, and no infelicities permitted to  intrude.  The translator must humbly, yet willingly, enter this liminal space, or the result will fail to satisfy.

Besides the presence of  two languages, a third is required – and that is the language of poetry itself. This is the holy trinity. This is the language the original poet and the translator must have in common. If all this sounds like so much presumptuous nonsense, experience must provide the only possible veto.  In my case, there is no other way that can lead me to my desired destination.

When I first read this poem by Francisco de Medrano, it drew me instantly in. I saw and heard and felt some essence of observing the unfolding images which passed before my inward eye, which is how the conviction came to me that the poem was real. The feeling and images lingered in the back of my mind for three or so years, until last night the moment came when they reasserted themselves, and I took up the task of translation.

Medrano, who was born in Seville in 1570, was a Jesuit priest, who gave up religion for poetry, which of course is the more divine vocation of the two.  I wish more people could do this, but alas the inferior requirements of religion are much more easily satisfied than those of poetry, which might account for the greater popularity of the former.

Despite his initial clerical misstep, de Medrano did find his way out of the darkness of the church. He spoke of love in a way that is clearly not merely mystical hocus-pocus. That he felt the influence – or presence – of St. John of the Cross seems evident in the subject and circumstances of the poem, as well as its imagery and vocabulary, yet it is very different from the poetry of St. John.  The locutions suggest to me (perhaps it is from the gender of the nouns) that de Medrano’s Muse, unlike St. John’s, was adamantly female.   This makes his poem more have for me a greater feeling of conviction – of genuineness.  de Medrano’s choice of the last three words of the poem, which include the choice of ‘la alma’ over ‘el alma’ (alma is generally a masculine noun which turns feminine in the plural)  not merely as a preference for the sake of how it sounds, thereby changing the gender of the (singular)  soul to female, seems to affirm this.

When I first read this poem, I felt it was a little creepy – as the suggestion of night visitants are apt to be.  It has the sense of a nightmare, one which had the ambivalent elements of both horror and bliss. Who was this presence who came to Medrano’s darkened room in the obscurity of the shadow-steeped night? Jungians no doubt would say it was his Anima, and that his soul’s shocking encounter with its oppositely gendered part, accounts for the events related and emotions felt.

I cannot refute such an argument, because however she is named, this presence attends all the uncanny states which accompany genuine poetic experience.  I have to stress the word ‘genuine’, because so much twaddle is passed off as poetry as to make the separation of wheat from chaff an onerous job, for the quantity of chaff is vast in comparison to the few grains which might appear at the end of an exhaustive winnowing.  What convinces me that de Medrano’s poem is genuine, besides my own vicarious experience, is that it follows the steps beginning with a feeling of infiltration which then goes on to overcome, and ends with a lysis (not in the pathological sense, or the priggish pederastic sense of Plato, but as the wall or barrier which breaks to permit access to a meaning which can be accessed) that feels true and right.

Genuinely inspired works stand out  brilliantly from among their dull pretenders. When one comes across the former, one feels a sense of wholeness, as when one is swept in the glissando of a well-structured drama which faithfully follows the structure of  rising action, crisis, denouement, and then leaves one with the small grain of resolution that endow it with the power to linger on in the mind, resonating with a persistent tenacity  for months and even years. de Medrano’s lips are sealed about the identity of his visitor – but  of course he knew who she was:  he really did. She was never a stranger to him.

Synchronicity can sometimes be made to serve as evidential proof that one has stumbled across a bit of contagious magic, and so it was last night. My search for a copy of this poem to cut and paste in this post took on a life of its own. Quite by chance (?) I came across a lesbian writer and singer from Argentina, María Elena Walsh, whose work is bound to make a future appearance in this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herewith a brief biography of de Medrano for those who can read Spanish, which I found at this site.

http://www.apoloybaco.com/Francisco%20de%20Medrano.htm

 

Nació en Sevilla hacia el año 1570. Perteneció a la orden de los jesuitas, hasta que en el año 1602 decidió abandonarla y retirarse a disfrutar de una vida sosegada, donde la poesía fue su principal actividad. Se sabe que estudió en Córdoba y Salamanca cuando aún pertenecía a la compañía.

Era un poeta que cultivaba una poesía clásica, de características muy similares a la de los poetas salmantinos del siglo XVI, basando su obra prácticamente en las traducciones de obras clásica, y realización de poesía a imitación de autores del mismo corte, principalmente Horacio. Así el crítico Adolfo de Castro lo refleja, dictanimando que Medrano es, sin duda alguna, el mejor de los imitadores españoles de Horacio.
 
Su escritura era correcta, huyendo del estilo gongorista que se impulsaba en la literatura española de aquella época. Escribió cincuenta y dos sonetos, dotados de una especial sensualidad, además de diversas odas y romances. Entre sus poemas más conocidos se encuentra la oda de La profecía del Tajo -que aquí les muestro- muy similar a la que escribió Fray Luis de León con el mismo título.
 
La muerte pronto vino a visitarle; murió en el año 1607.
Era un poeta que cultivaba una poesía clásica, de características muy similares a la de los poetas salmantinos del siglo XVI, basando su obra prácticamente en las traducciones de obras clásica, y realización de poesía a imitación de autores del mismo corte, principalmente Horacio. Así el crítico Adolfo de Castro lo refleja, dictanimando que Medrano es, sin duda alguna, el mejor de los imitadores españoles de Horacio.
 
La muerte pronto vino a visitarle; murió en el año 1607.

 

Read Full Post »

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So el encina:             

So el encina, encina,
so el encina.

Yo me iba, mi madre,
a la romería;
por ir más devota
fui sin compañía;
so el encina.

Por ir más devota
fin sin compañía;
tomé otro camino,
dejé el que tenía;
so el encina.

Halléme perdida
en una montiña,
echéme a dormir
al pie del encina,
so el encina.

A la media noche
recordé, mezquina;
halléme en los brazos
del que más quería,
so el encina.

Pesóme, cuitada
de que amanecía
porque yo gozaba
del que más quería,
so el encina.

Muy biendita sía
la tal romería;
so el encina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Ilex

Beneath the ilex, the ilex
beneath the ilex

I was going, Mother,
on a pilgrimage
so as to be more devout
I was without companions.

So as to be more devout
I was without companions
I took another road
I left the one I was on
under the ilex.

I found myself lost     
on a mountain
I prepared to sleep
at the foot of the ilex

At midnight
I remember – woe is me –
I found myself in the arms
of the one I love best
under the ilex

To my chagrin, I was left
at the break of dawn,
for I had been delighting
in the one I love best
under the ilex

Most blessed be
such a pilgrimage
under the ilex.

Translation Dia Tsung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quercus ilex is the Mediterranean Oak, also called the Holm Oak, Holly Oak, Ilex, Evergreen Oak, Scarlet Oak, Bloody Oak and Prickly Oak.  It shares the name ‘Ilex’ with Holly, probably because like the Holly, it is evergreen. How the same tree could be referred to as ‘evergreen’ and ‘scarlet’ is a minor mystery, but solved by the entomologists, who tell us that the scarlet berries, which give the oak its name, are made by an insect – the kerm beetle – who feeds on the oak leaves and produces a scarlet ‘berry,’ which is the source of a scarlet dye highly prized by the ancients and used for royal robes and  buskins. The berries themselves were said to possess aphrodisiac properties, and perhaps this could have been intended by the anonymous poet as another oblique suggestion pertaining to the midnight tryst.  Coincidentally, one of the most famous XV century composers of villancicos was Juan Encina – and I wonder if  it is possible that it was he who wrote the poem.

When I first read this poem, I immediately felt that the Ilex tree held a significance beyond its being merely a convenient shelter for a young girl on a pilgrimage, who had lost her way.  Two references jumped out at me, the first by Ovid, and the second by Robert Graves. According to Graves, the Holm Oak stands for the eighth month of the druid calendar and the letter ‘T’ in the druidic tree alphabet. The letter ‘T’ signifies the cross, or the gibbet and has connotations of human sacrifice in the old religion, although here, happily it is only her virginity – and not the virgin herself – which is ‘sacrificed.’

These things suggest to me that our girl set off on her romantic adventure around midsummer – a warm time of year, perfect for a ‘pilgrimage’ in the mountains, particularly if one also has to sleep outdoors.

Ovid tells us that Artemis the wild huntress and her virgin band of hamdryades cooled themselves  at midday in a pool hidden by a thicket of Ilex. When the women disrobed before entering the water, one of the Goddess’s companions, Callisto the princess of Arcadia, was seen to be pregnant. She was expelled from the group for her indiscretion, and was later turned into a bear by Hera. She can be seen in the night sky as one of the stars in the always bright constellation of Ursa Major.

Acorns were also thought to be the food of the Arcadians (who were the descendants of Callisto’s son Arkas) – and bears.  Callisto was of course seduced by Zeus, and she may not have been completely willing, since there is little to suggest that the women Zeus ravished consented in any way, and not surprisingly these seductions had little to do with either love or romance.

I felt intuitively that the poem was about a virgin with her first lover – which the Arcadian episode appeared to support. The young girl in the villancico, under the pretext of going on a pilgrimage, appears to have turned in a different direction, with the intention of keeping an assignation with her lover. But even if the meeting had not been planned (improbable but possible,) her apparently religious motivation turns out to have  had a decidedly secular outcome.

The girl has  contrived a good  cover story for her sly ‘accidentally on purpose’ rendezvous,  and is careful to appear blameless when she  returns home and recounts the details of her ‘pilgrimage’ to her mother. She couches  it in terms of a ‘mishap,’ which, is designed to preserve her innocence, if not her modesty.

It seems evident to me she is an adventuresome girl – intelligent, enterprising – and bold enough to wish to travel alone.  She experiences her life in  concrete terms – of  external events, circumstances and she gives us no advance notice of her own intentions. She expresses no doubts or fears or speculations, and this absence of interiority gives the poem  much of its straightforwardness, clarity and honesty.

The girl seems to have planned her journey so as to reach the Ilex tree at dusk, and was prepared to wait there alone in the thickening darkness  until her lover came to meet her.

In older times, Midsummer was after all, the time for romantic revelry and magical evocations. Even Shakespeare capitalised on the associations of this uncanny season to provide the context of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Even the word ‘midsummer’ has something quite magical about it, and saying the words ‘summer night’ alone can cast the first tinge of a spell upon a previously clear mind.

I wondered about the landscape of this poem – and the image that formed in my mind was of a scrubby hillside dotted with clumps of Ilex, with one tree that stood apart from the others. This was the place chosen by our girl for her assignation. Was there a moon? Was the night dark? could she see the sky through the branches and watch as the summer constellations  wheeled their arcs across the heavens?  She must have had a simple supper – probably consisting of bread and olives and perhaps some cheese. Was there a stream nearby where she could refresh herself and take a drink?  She must have sat there quietly in the darkness, with her cloak drawn close about her, listening to the insects and waiting until midnight.

Though the Italian translation of this poem suggests a male paramour, the Spanish does not. Accustomed habits of interpretation would have her lover be a male – but I do not feel constrained by habitual interpretations, and in my mind, she waits for another girl. She must have strained her ears listening for a footfall, and then a voice.

The meeting is described as a fiat – at midnight she suddenly finds herself in the arms of ‘the one she loves best.’ Everything just ‘happened,’ with no apparent agency on her part. But Summer nights are brief, and when dawn comes lovers, despite their reluctance to do so, must separate. When the sky begins to colour she is alone again – the pilgrimage is finished, and she must go back home.

What were her thoughts on the way home? Was this her only encounter? We hope not, because she is still a young girl when she tells her mother about the pilgrimage, being careful to not incriminate herself, and yet unable to suppress her sense of joy and exultation. Not all love-stories have happy endings, but somehow the sheer effrontery that went into the planning and execution of this meeting lets me believe that there were other meetings – other pilgrimages – and that in this way at least, her hopes and aspirations for love found their fulfillment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Translation

Sotto il leccio, leccio     
sotto il leccio

Andavo, madre,
in pellegrinaggio:
per andare più devota
andai senza compagnia,
sotto il leccio.

 

Per andare più devota
andai senza compagnia,
presi un’altra strada
lasciai il percorso che fui.

Mi smarrii ai piedi
di una montagna,
mi misi a dormire
ai piedi del leccio.

A mezzanotte
mi svegliai,
misera, mi trovai
tra le braccia
di chi amavo di più,
sotto il leccio.

 

Mi dispiacque, misera,
che albeggiava,
perché godevo
di chi amavo di più,
sotto il leccio.

Benedetto sia
questo pellegrinaggio,
sotto il leccio.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Juan Boscán Almogáver (1490?–September 21, 1542)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Sombra                                            

Como aquel que en soñar gusto recibe,
su gusto procediendo de locura,
así el imaginar con su figura
vanamente su gozo en mí concibe.

 

Otro bien en mí, triste, no se escribe,
si no es aquel que en mi pensar procura;
de cuanto ha sido hecho en mi ventura
lo sólo imaginado es lo que vive.

 

Teme mi corazón de ir adelante,
viendo estar su dolor puesto en celada;
y así revuelve atrás en un instante

a contemplar su gloria ya pasada.
¡Oh sombra de remedio inconstante,
ser en mí lo mejor lo que no es nada
Oh Shadow

Like one receiving pleasure from a dream,
his pleasure thus proceeding from delusion,
so does imagination with illusions
conceive in vain its happiness in me.

 

No other good’s inscribed on my sad heart,
except what in my thoughts I might procure;
of all the good I ever have endured,
what lives is only the imagined part.

 

My heart is frightened to proceed ahead,
seeing that its pain in ambush lies;
and so after a moment it turns back

 

 

 

to contemplate those glories that have fled.
Oh, shadow of relief, that fickle flies,
to make what’s best in me be what I lack!

© 1995 Alix Ingber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soneto CXI                                              

Soy como aquel que vive en el desierto,
del mundo y de sus cosas olvidado,
y a descuido veis donde le ha llegado
un gran amigo, al cual tuvo por muerto.

 

Teme luego de un caso tan incierto;
pero, después que bien se ha asegurado,
comienza a holgar pensando en lo pasado,
con nuevos sentimientos muy despierto.

 

 

Mas cuando ya este amigo se le parte,
al cual partirse presto le conviene,
la soledad empieza a selle nueva;

 

 

con las yerbas del monte no se aviene,
para el yermo le falta toda el arte,
y tiembla cada vez que entra en su cueva.

 

 

 

 

Sonnet 111

I am like one who in a desert bides
Forgotten by the world and its concerns,
By chance encounter suddenly who learns
A dear friend lives, whom he supposed had died.

 

He fears at first this doubtful apparition,
But finding it then reliable and assured,
Commences to recall his past condition
By newly awakened sentiments allured

 

 

But when it’s time for friend and friend to part
Since to be parted soon he must consent
He finds old solitude stamped with new indent.    

 

 

To mountain grass he must then reconcile,
And barren wastes which lack a trace of art,
Trembling each time he enters his cave the while.

 

 

Translation Dia Tsung

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder if  Juan Boscán, who together with his close friend  Garcilaso de la Vega, (their poems were jointly published) initiated the  the Siglo de Oro in Spain, might be surprised to find  his poem resurrected and set to music under the title “O Sombra”  by the British all woman group Electrelane.

Chance couplings such as this never cease to astonish me.

It happened like this: I had been looking on the internet for a copy of the original (unnamed and unnumbered) Boscán sonnet in order to post it in this blog along with my translation, when I stumbled upon the text with the title  “Oh Sombra.” – which turned out to be a song.

I listened to the song, and found the music unusual and engaging.

I soon discovered that the lyrics to the song were the identical with the text of Boscán’s sonnet, and that Spanish text/lyric came accompanied by an extraordinarily literate (and uncredited) translation, which showed up in site after site where song lyrics are posted.

As soon as I read this translation I gave up the idea of doing my own, since it was abundantly clear to me that I could by no means improve upon it.  I was wondering how to credit the work,  in the absence of a translator’s name, and decided  I must continue searching, and so came across a site containing Spanish poems with English Translations.

There I found that the translation had been made by Alix Ingber, who is Professor Emerita of Spanish at Sweet Briar College.

I respectfully credit professor Engber for her inspired translation of Boscán’s sonnet.

I retained Electrelane’s title “Oh Sombra”  because in seemed to me to fit the poem well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More from Electrelane.

 

 

 

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Bosc%C3%A1n_Almog%C3%A1ver

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrelane

Read Full Post »

Garcilaso de la Vega (1501 – 1536)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soneto VI                                                  


Por ásperos caminos he llegado

a parte que de miedo no me muevo;

y si a mudarme o dar un paso pruebo,

allí por los cabellos soy tornado.

Mas tal estoy, que con la muerte al lado

busco de mi vivir consejo nuevo;

y conozco el mejor y el peor apruebo,

o por costumbre mala o por mi hado.

Por otra parte, el breve tiempo mío,     

y el errado proceso de mis años,

en su primer principio y en su medio,

mi inclinación, con quien ya no porfío,

la cierta muerte, fin de tantos daños,

me hacen descuidar de mi remedio.

 

 

 

Version 1

By rugged roads I have arrived                      

Whereat I cannot move for fear

And should I try to shift or step

I am dragged back by my own hair.

Moreover with death at my side

Fresh counsel for my life I seek

And knowing what’s best, I try the worst

Accustomed to ills or destiny.

On the other hand, my time is brief –

My errant progress through the years

From their commencement and mid life

Me predispose to not persist.

Death’s certain end after such pain

Makes me reject a remedy.

 

 

 

 

 

Version 2

By rough and rugged roads I have arrived            
Whereat for fear I cannot move away,
And should I even try to take a step
I find myself dragged backed by my own hair.

Moreover with Death poised here by my side
I search anew some counsel for my life:
I know what’s best and yet I try the worst
Due to ill habits and my destiny.

As for my part, I know my time is brief,
My errant progress marches through the years
From its inception through my middle age.

Death’s certain ending following such pain
Makes me uncaring of a remedy.

 

 

I myself find the second version (translated with metre intact)  retains the more intentionally  – and leisurely – contrived artifice of the sonnet, but I feel I prefer the first because dropping a foot gives it more briskness and urgency and the more uneven line gives it more impact.

 

 

 

Soneto XXIII *                                            

En tanto que de rosa y azucena

se muestra la color en vuestro gesto,

y que vuestro mirar ardiente, honesto,

enciende al corazón y lo refrena;

y en tanto que el cabello, que en la vena

del oro se escogió, con vuelo presto,

por el hermoso cuello blanco, enhiesto,

el viento mueve, esparce y desordena:

 

coged de vuestra alegre primavera

el dulce fruto, antes que el tiempo airado

cubra de nieve la hermosa cumbre;

marchitará la rosa el viento helado.

Todo lo mudará la edad ligera

Por no haces mudanza en su costumbre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonnet 23                                                           

In such wise as the lily and the rose
Demonstrate the colour in your face
So does your gaze so honest, so direct
Consume the heart with ardour and restraint.

And so too does your hair seem like a vein
Of gold, that swiftly choosing it the breeze
Moves it and scatters it in disarray
Against the beauty of your white uprising neck.

Gather then the gayness of your Spring,
And the sweet fruit before an irate clime
Masks the acme of your beauty with its snow.

Soon icy winds will wither every rose
And swiftly change the lightness of your days
So as to keep unchanged their usual ways.

 

Translations Dia Tsung.

 

*This is the poem that inspired the more famous one by St. John of the Cross.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »