Poetry Translations

with Susan McLean

Susan McLean 2019-06-08 cropped.jpg

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Sonnet
 

A refutation of flatteries perceived as blind error;

inscribed by the truth on a portrait of the poet.

This that you see, this brightly-hued pretense,

here by the grace of art rendered appealing,

through specious feats of colorful deceiving

is cleverly deployed to cheat the sense;

this, in which flattery’s munificence

has sought to mask the blows the years are dealing

so as to conquer time, thereby concealing

the horrors wrought by age and negligence,

is effort undertaken for no gain,

is a frail flower in the windy squall,

is a defense from fate mounted in vain,

is labor mad and wasted, doomed to fall,

is a fool’s errand, and, regarded plain,

is corpse, is dust, is dark, is not at all.

 

Previously published in The Raintown Review.

Sonnet

In which the poet complains of her fate, notes her aversion
to luxuries, and justifies her pleasure in the Muses.

When you pursue me, world, why do you do it?

How do I harm you, when my sole intent

is to make learning my prize ornament,

not learn to prize ornament and pursue it?

I have no treasure, and I do not rue it,

since all my life I have been most content

rendering mind — by learning — opulent,

not minding opulence, rendering tribute to it.

I have no taste for beauties that decay

and are the spoil of ages as they flee,

nor do those riches please me that betray;

best of all truths I hold this truth to be:

cast all the vanities of life away,

and not your life away on vanity.

 

Previously published in The Raintown Review.

Dominican-born Rhina P. Espaillat has published thirteen books, four chapbooks, and two CDs, comprising poetry, essays, and short stories, in English and Spanish, and translations into both languages, winning the Richard Wilbur Award, Nemerov Prize, Eliot Prize, and others.

Soneto: (Este que ves, engaño colorido)

            Este que ves, engaño colorido,

que del arte ostentando los primores,

con falsos silogismos de colores

es cauteloso engaño del sentido;

            éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido

excusar de los años los horrores,

y venciendo del tiempo los rigores

triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

            es un vano artificio del cuidado,

es una flor al viento delicada,

es un resguardo inútil para el hado:

            es una necia diligencia errada,

es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,

es cadaver, el polvo, es sombra, es nada.

Soneto: (En perseguirme, mundo, que interesas?)

            En perseguirme, mundo, que interesas?

En qué te ofendo, cuando sólo intento

poner bellezas en mi entendimiento,

y no mi entendimiento en las bellezas?

            Yo no estimo tesoros ni riquezas;

y así, siempre me causa más contento

poner riquezas en mi entendimiento,

que no mi entendimiento en las riquezas.

            Yo no estimo hermosura que, vencida,

es despojo civil de las edades,

ni riqueza me agrada fementida,

            teniendo por mejor en mis verdades,

consumir vanidades de la vida

que consumir la vida en vanidades.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695, Mexico), born of Spanish and Creole parents, became a nun to avoid marriage and to write, becoming the first great poet of the Americas. Warned by the Inquisition to stop writing, she died tending sick nuns during a pandemic.

Seawater Ballad
 

To Emilio Prados

(cloudhunter)

The sea

smiles from the distance.

Teeth of ocean spray,

lips of sky.

 

What is it you’re selling, wild young woman,

half-naked, breasts bared?

 

I’m selling, sir, water

from the sea.

 

What is it you carry, dark-skinned young man,

mixed into the blood of your veins?

 

I carry with me, sir, water

from the sea.

 

Where is it these salt-laden tears of yours

come from, dear lady?

 

My tears, sir, are water

from the sea.

 

And tell me, heart, this terrible bitterness,

what is the source of it?

 

Bitter indeed is the water that comes

from the sea!

 

The sea

smiles from the distance.

Teeth of ocean spray,

lips of sky.

Brittany Hause lived in Bolivia, the USA, and South Korea before moving to the UK to pursue a degree in linguistics. Their verse translations and original poetry have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Star*Line, NewMyths.com, and elsewhere.

La balada del agua del mar
 

A Emilio Prados

(cazador de nubes)

El mar

sonríe a lo lejos.

Dientes de espuma,

labios de cielo.

 

¿Qué vendes, oh joven turbia

con los senos al aire?

 

Vendo, señor, el agua

de los mares.

 

¿Qué llevas, oh negro joven,

mezclado con tu sangre?

 

Llevo, señor, el agua

de los mares.

 

Esas lágrimas salobres

¿de dónde vienen, madre?

 

Lloro, señor, el agua

de los mares.

 

Corazón, y esta amargura

seria, ¿de dónde nace?

 

¡Amarga mucho el agua

de los mares!

 

El mar

sonríe a lo lejos.

Dientes de espuma,

labios de cielo.

One of Spain’s most celebrated poets, Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) drew on medieval tradition and local folklore to produce reams of transformative, boundary-pushing verse before his politically motivated murder at the onset of the Spanish Civil War.

Ode ii.15

Soon now these princely palaces will spare

But little room for ploughland, and you’ll find

Artificial fishponds everywhere

Wider than lakes, and the plane tree, un-vined,

 

Will conquer the old elms; violets then,

And myrtles and the nostrils’ treasured scents,

Throughout the olive grove that former men

Had harvested, will waft their decadence:

 

Then with thick branches laurel will exclude

The burning sunbeams. This is not the way

That Romulus and Cato taught our rude

Forefathers, who lived simply in their day.

 

The private wealth they kept was miniscule,

The public wealth enormous; portico

Columns weren’t measured with a ten-foot rule

That citizens might catch the Great Bear’s glow

 

At home, nor did the law let them decline

Huts roofed with humble earth, but gave the nod

To cities built at public cost, a shrine

Made beautiful with marble for each god.

 

First published in Proteus Bound: Selected Translations, 2008-2020

Ryan Wilson is the author of The Stranger World (Measure, 2017), How to Think Like a Poet (Wiseblood, 2019), and Proteus Bound: Selected Translations (Franciscan, 2021). Editor-in-Chief of Literary Matters, he teaches at The Catholic University of America.

Ode ii.15

Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae

moles relinquent, undique latius

extenta visentur Lucrino

stagna lacu, platanusque caelebs

 

evincet ulmos; tum violaria et

myrtus et omnis copia narium

spargent olivetis odorem

fertilibus domino priori;

 

tum spissa ramis laurea fervidos

excludet ictus. non ita Romuli

praescriptum et intonsi Catonis

auspiciis veterumque norma.

 

privatus illis census erat brevis,

commune magnum: nulla decempedis

metata privatis opacam

porticus excipiebat Arcton

 

nec fortuitum spernere caespitem

leges sinebant, oppida publico

sumptu iubentes et deorum

templa novo decorare saxo.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known as Horace (65-27 BCE),was the Poet Laureate of Rome during its Golden Age.

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