#1 – Siesta

Well, here we go again. Napowrimo poem #1 for 2006 is a ‘translation’ of a poem by Antonio Machado. I don’t speak Spanish (I was working with a prose translation and a dictionary), I haven’t attempted to maintain rhyme or metre, and I’ve allowed myself a degree of freedom. I’m by no means convinced by the result, but it was interesting to do. Here’s the original:

En Memoria de Abel Martín

Mientras traza su curva el pez de fuego
junto al ciprés, bajo el supremo añil,
y vuela en blanca piedra el niño ciego,
y en el olmo la copla de marfil
de la verde cigarra late y suena,
honremos al Señor
– la negra estampa de su mano buena –
que ha dictado el silencio en el clamor.

Al Dios de la distancia y de la ausencia,
del áncora en la mar, la plena mar …
Él nos libra del mundo – omnipresencia –,
nos abre sendar para caminar.

Con la copa de sombra bien colmada,
con este nunca lleno corazón,
honremos al Señor que hizo la Nada
y ha esculpido en la fe nuestra razón.

And here’s my version:


In memory of Abel Martín

While the burning fish carves its arc
beside the cypress, under the utmost indigo,
and the blind boy fades into the bleached stone,
and in the elm the green cicada’s bone-white song
rolls and throbs,
let us give honour to the Lord
– the dark incisions of his good hand –
that ordered silence in the tumult.

To the God of distance and absence,
of the anchor in the open sea…
He releases us from the world – is everywhere –
opens to us a path to walk.

With a glass brimful of shadow,
with this never-full heart,
let us honour the Lord who made Nothing
and whittled our reason out of faith.

2 replies on “#1 – Siesta”

This is essentially a lineated prose translation. I imagine it’s accurate, and certainly it’s colorful; but it sacrifices the rhymed form of the original, and so dishonors the intent of the poet. Work harder! Make the English version more like the Spanish. It might take some syntactical fiddling, but I would rather alter syntax than abandon form, when translating a formal poem.

Hi Alan. That might have to wait until after April, since writing a poem a day is going to keep me busy. I do think that formal poems ideally ought to be translated in some kind of form, but all translations need compromise and which compromise you choose is a matter of taste, I think, rather than honour. Anyway. I’m not making any claims for this one. At least ‘colorful’ is better than nothing. (smiley)

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