Federico Garcí­a Lorca: two translations

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GHAZAL OF UNFORSEEN LOVE

No one understood the fragrance
of the dark magnolia of your womb.
No one knew how you tormented
a hummingbird of love between your teeth.

A thousand Persian ponies bedded down
in the moonlit plaza of your forehead
while for four nights I lassoed
your waist, the enemy of snow.

Between gypsum and jasmine, your glance
was a pale branchful of seeds.
I searched my breast to give you
the ivory letters that spell always,

always, always: garden of my agony,
your body forever fugitive,
the blood of your veins in my mouth
and your mouth already my tomb, emptied of light.

*

GACELA DEL AMOR IMPREVISTO

Nadie comprendí­a el perfume
de la oscura magnolia de tu vientre.
Nadie sabí­a que martirizabas
un colibrí­ de amor entre los dientes.

Mil caballitos persas se dormí­an
en la plaza con luna de tu frente,
mientras que yo enlazaba cuatro noches
tu cintura, enemiga de la nieve.

Entre yeso y jazmines, tu mirada
era un pálido ramo de simientes.
Yo busqué, para darte, por mi pecho
las letras de marfil que dicen
siempre,

siempre, siempre: jardí­n de mi agoní­a,
tu cuerpo fugitivo para siempre,
la sangre de tus venas en mi boca,
tu boca ya sin luz para mi muerte.

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GHAZAL OF THE TERRIBLE PRESENCE

Let the water do without a place to settle;
let the wind do without valleys.

Let the night do without eyes
and my heart without its flower of gold.

I want the steers to talk with the large leaves
and the earthworm to die of shadow.

I want the teeth gleaming in the skull
and the silks drowning in yellow.

I can see the duel between the wounded night
and noon, how they twist and tangle.

I resist a twilight of green venom
and collapsed arches where time suffers on.

But don’t illuminate this limpid nude of yours
like some black cactus open in the bulrushes.

Leave me in an agony of longing for dark planets,
but do not teach me the ways of your cool waist.

*

GACELA DE LA TERRIBLE PRESENCIA

Yo quiero que el agua se quede sin cauce,
yo quiero que el viento se quede sin valles.

Quiero que la noche se quede sin ojos
y mi corazón sin flor del oro;

que los bueyes hablen con las grandes hojas
y que la lombriz se muera de sombra;

que brillen los dientes de la calavera
y los amarillos inunden la seda.

Puedo ver el duelo de la noche herida
luchando enroscada con el mediodí­a.

Resiste un ocaso de verde veneno
y los arcos rotos donde sufre el tiempo.

Pero no ilumines tu limpio desnudo
como un negro cactus abierto en los juncos.

Déjame en un ansia de oscuros planetas,
pero no me enseñes tu cintura fresca.

4 Comments


  1. Hi, Dave,
    I was looking for translations of one of these two poems on Google, and was pleasantly surprised to see a link to Via Negativa coming up at the top of Google’s ranking, so I thought I’d take the opportunity just to say hello.
    “Hello.”
    OK, now that’s done, must get back to work.
    All the best,
    Will

    Reply

  2. Hi, Will! Yeah, it doesn’t seem fair sometimes the way the search engines give priority to us bloggers just because we have more incoming links than other sites. Oh well. I figure I at least did the world a favor by putting the Spanish originals up, too. They must be almost out-of-copyright by now.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply

  3. Hey, I’ve been thinking lately…
    like, what’s the difference between Garcia Lorca’s ghazals [or gacelas]
    and the more traditional form revived / espoused by Agha Shahid Ali?

    I mean…I can tell the difference.
    But I wonder if Lorca’s fit some pattern at all.
    And he’s older–closer to the past–and Spain was kind of connected to the Middle East, right?

    Anyhow…

    Reply

    1. They came out of Lora’s immense enthusiasm for the poetry of Moorish Spain, which had then just recently been publsihed in a Spanish translation that caused a minor sensation among poets of his generation. Other than the fact that his gacelas were in couplets, I don’t think they followed any of the rules of Arabic ghazals, and it’s a rule-bound form, so I guess we can think of them as notional ghazals at best. Lorca tried to capture the spirit of Arab Andalucia.

      Reply

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