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Sunday, January 24, 2016

The mystique of the poet translator

I. {JM}

Garden

There are four horsemen
with swords of water
and dark is the night.
The four swords pierce
the world of roses
and will pierce your hearts.
Don’t go down to the garden!


II. {JR}

Garden

There are four caballeros
with four swords made of water
& a very dark night.
The four swords are wounding
a world filled with roses
& will wound your hearts too.
Don't go down into that garden.

[Jardín. Hay cuatro caballeros / con espadas de agua / y está la noche oscura. / Las cuatro espadas hieren / el mundo de las rosas / y os herirán el corazón. ¡No bajéis al jardín!]

There's a mystique about a poet translating, and some poets are fine translators. Jerome Rothenberg I'm sure is fine too, and brings something special to the task, but I think I can do better. I object to fillers: made of / filled with / down into / the very dark night. My version has fewer words and syllables. Every line is more compact, and I'm convinced every decision I've made is the correct one. A world filled with roses is nice, but the world of roses is more absolute: the roses have their world. That garden is that one, over there. The garden is the garden. You don't have to point it out, because you're already in the house where the garden is.

7 comments:

Leslie said...

Did you consider "the night is dark"?

"Dark is the night" seems stilted first off, although I am now getting used to it ("the night is dark" isn't great for sound/rhythm in the context)

Leslie said...

P.S. The JR translation is awful, and surprises me as I like him.

Jonathan said...

Yeah, there are a few other poems in this book he almost completely ruins. I did consider "the night is dark," but it is not as rhythmically vital, as you point out, and Lorca uses an inversion in the line too. I think I was thinking of "tender is the night." It evokes Keats and Fitzgerald. There a song called "dark is the night" and a movie titled "Dark was the Night," so think I can justify it.

Leslie said...

Very interesting. Does JR speak Spanish, by the way?

Jonathan said...

He has some Spanish, but I don't know how much and whether he literally "speaks" it, how well. I've never met him in person. I should translate the Suites myself. His is the only complete version and I think I could do it better.

Jonathan said...

vendimiar, for example, he gives as "gather." That verb is specific to the grape harvest. "Vendimia tus lágrimas." you could say "harvest your tears," that would be superior already. Never go abstract where Lorca goes concrete.

Leslie said...

...definitely translate it. It has been over 25 years since he published that.

I have met him. Bright, obviously, and seemed nice. His Spanish cannot be that good if he has translated this in this way. It is surprising that he even likes it if his reading of it is so impoverished.

(Of course I am considered wicked for saying such things.)