søndag 23. april 2017
Spanish poetry for World Book Day
Today, April 23rd, is World Book Day, an international celebration of books that has taken its date from the death-day of Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The tradition of World Book Day began in 1926. In honour of this wonderful day, I will here present some of my favourite Spanish poetry to mark that this day is a Spanish invention, founded by the writer Vicente Clavel (1888-1967). The poems below are taken from The Penguin Book of Spanish Poetry, and the translations are made by the book's editor, J. M. Cohen.
Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola
Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola (1559-1613) was poet and historian, and this untitled poem was one of my first exposures to the Spanish sonnet. I learned of it through a reworking of the poem into English by Geoffrey Hill, and it remains one of my favourite poems.
Llevó tras sí los pámpanos otubre,
y con las grandes lluvias insolente,
no sufre Ibero márgenes ni puente,
mas antes los vecinos campos cubre.
Moncayo, como suele, ya descubre
coronada de nieve la alta frente,
y el sol apenas vemos en Oriente
cuando la opaca tierra nos lo encubre.
Sienten el mar y selvas ya la saña
del aquilón, y encierra su bramido
gente en el puerto y gente en la cabaña.
Y Fabio, en el umbral de Tais tendido,
con vergonzosos lágrimas lo baña,
debiéndolas al tiempo que ha perdido.
(October has taken the vine-leaves with it, and swollen with the great rains, Ebro will suffer neither banks nor bridges, but rather covers the neighbouring fields.
Moncayo, as usual, now reveals her tall brow crowned with snow, and no sooner do we see the sun in the East than the opaque earth conceals it from us.
Now the sea and the woods feel the north-wind's anger, and its roaring shuts people up in port and people in their cottages.
And Fabio, lying on Thais' threshold, wets it with shameful tears, his debt to the time that he has wasted.)
Lope de Vega Carpio
Lope de Vega (1562-1613) is one of the foremost writers of Spanish literature. He is predominantly remembered for his numerous plays, but his religious poetry has also achieved well-deserved fame. The following untitled poem is another verse to which I came through a reworking by Geoffrey Hill, and it is a hauntingly direct, unvarnished grappling with issues of personal faith.
Qué tengo yo que mi amistad procuras?
Qué interés se te sigue, Jesús mío,
que a mi puerta, cubierto de rocío,
pasas las noches del invierno escuras?
Oh, cuánto fueron mis entrañas duras
pues no te abrí! Qué extraño desvarío
si de mi ingratitud el hielo frío
secó las llagas de tus plantas puras!
Cuántas veces el ángel me decía:
"Alma, asómate agora a la ventana,
verás con cuanto amor llamar porfía!"
Y cuántas, hermosura soberana:
"Mañana te abriremos" - repondía,
para lo mismo responder mañana!
(What have I that you should sue for my friendship? What interest brings you, dear Jesus, to spend the dark winter nights at my door, covered in dew?
Oh how hard was my heart that I did not open to you! What strange madness was it if the cold frost of my ingratitude chapped the wounds on your pure feet?
How many times did the angel say to me: 'Now, soul, look out of your window, and you will see how lovingly he persists in knocking!'
And how many times, oh supreme beauty, did I reply: 'I will open tomorrow', only to make the same reply upon the morrow!)
Miguel de Guevara
This final poem is a religious sonnet is attributed to the sixteenth-century Mexican priest Miguel de Guevara (dates unknown), and it is one of the most moving religious poems that I know of.
A Cristo crucificado
No me mueve, mi Dios, para quererte,
el cielo que me tienes prometido,
ni me mueve el infierno tan temido
para dejar pos eso de ofenderte.
Tú me mueves, Señor; muéveme el verte
clavado en esa cru, y escarnecido;
muéveme el ver tu cuerpo tan herido,
muévenme tus afrentas, y tu muerte.
Muéveme, al fin, tu amor, y en tal manera,
que aunque no hubiera cielo, yo te amara,
y aunque no hubiera infierno te temiera.
No me tienes que dar porque te quiera;
pues aunque lo que espero no esperara,
lo mismo que te quiero te quisiera.
(To Christ Crucified
It is not heaven that You have promised me, my God, that moves me to love You, nor is it the hell I so fear that moves me to cease sinning against You.
You move me, Lord; it moves me to see You nailed to that cross and despised; it moves me to see Your body so wounded; the insults You suffered and Your death move me.
Finally, Your love moves m, and so much that even if there were no heaven, I should love You; and even in there were no hell, I should fear You.
You have not to give me anything to make me love You; for even if I did not hope for what I do hope for, I should love You just as I do.)