And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 31. januar 2018

From an elegy by Nicolás Guillén

In a previous blogpost, I talked about my excitement in discovering that I could read a collection of poems by Octavio Paz in Spanish, only relying on an English translation for the odd word I did not know. Incited by this literary triumph, I decided to venture further into Latin-American poetry, and while searching for poets from Cuba I found the name Nicolás Guillén (1902-89) and found, to my delight, that there existed a dual-language edition of one of his works. The work in question is the poem "En algún sitio de la primavera: Elegía", a poem in fifteen parts that was made public shortly after Guillén's death, and edited with a facing-page translation by Keith Ellis in 1994. It was a pleasure to read this poem, and although it was more difficult than the shorter sentences in Paz' work, I felt able to enjoy it in its original language, which heightened the enjoyment significantly. In the present blogpost, I give you one of the poem's fifteen parts plus translation, taken from Ellis' edition from 1994, titled New Love Poetry and published by University of Toronto Press.

En algún sitio de la primavera: Elegía


La forma de la muerte no es una calavera.
Es tu ausencia
como una llanura calcinada.
Una llanura a sol y fuego por el día,
reverberante y sin un árbol.
Una llanura damasquinada por la Luna,
una extensión metálica
en la frialdad nocturna.

Si grito, no me oyen.
Si llamo, nadie viene.
En qué planta estoy viviendo?
Ah dios, si lo supiera!
Estoy muerto,
tendid al sol y al cielo,
un cadáber sin ojos
picoteado de pájaros.

Me oyes, me estás oyendo?
Ayer no más, el mismo,
el tuyo para siempre.

Ni aun el viento.

In Some Springtime Place: Elegy

(translated by Keith Ellis)


The form of death is not a skull.
It is your absence
like a scorched plain.
A plain burned by sun and fire by day,
shimmering and treeless.
A plain
mottled by the Moon,
a metallic expanse
in the nocturnal cold.

If I shout, they don't hear me.
If I call, nobody comes.
What planet am I living on?
Oh God, if I only knew!
I am dead,
laid out under sun and sky,
an eyeless corpse,
picked over by birds.

Do you hear me, are you hearing me?
Only yesterday, hte same,
yours forever

Not even the wind.

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