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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, May 5, 2017

Churton

When you don't know anything about something, learning takes place quickly at times.  So a week ago I knew almost nothing about the translation of Spanish poetry into English before 1900. Now I am getting revelation after revelation.  Sir Walter Scott and Byron, William Cullen Bryant, and some people I've never heard of until now.  Edward Churton, British Gongora scholar who did some nice translations long before Góngora was in vogue in Spain. Here's one he did of a poem by Villamediana.


A GRAND town-square, close streets, or rather straits;
A rich old bishop, traders poor as rats;
Fair horses, ambling slow, with such soft paces,
As well might teach the women better graces;
Women, whose gait and pace so strong and coarse is,        5
You ’d think they practised steps with stalking horses;
Rude shapeless houses, men like cornstalks tall,
Cobblers’ and stitchers’ work on every stall;
Stummed wine to drink, lean bread to feed upon;
A crowd of fools,—wise Góngora all alone,—        10
I found at Cordova;—if bad ’s the best,
Let him who finds aught better paint the rest.


{Original:

Gran plaza, angostas calles, muchos callos;
obispo rico, pobres mercaderes;
buenos caballos para ser mujeres,
buenas mujeres para ser caballos.

Casas sin talla, hombres como tallos;
aposentos colgados de alfileres;
Baco descolorido, flaca Ceres,
muchos Judas y Pedros pocos, gallos;

Agujas y alfileres infinitos;
una puente que no hay quien la repare;
un vulgo necio, un Góngora discreto;

un San Pablo entre muchos sambenitos:
esto en Córdoba hallé; quien más hallare,

póngaselo a la cola a este soneto.

3 comments:

Leslie said...

This is fantastic.

Vance Maverick said...

I can imagine that if I had read it at the time I would have rolled my eyes at the Browning / Don Juan mannerisms, but at this distance they seem well done and appropriate.

Jonathan said...

Sure, but if you would have been a 19th reader then maybe you wouldn't have objected.