Green enchantment of every human life,
mad hope, delirious golden fever,
convoluted sleep of the sleepless
where dream and treasure are equally elusive;
soul of this world, leafy senescence,
decrepit fantasy of green
that the happy call today
and the unhappy, tomorrow:
let those who wear green glasses
and see everything just as their desire paints it
chase your shadow in search of a new morning.
For my part, I’ll give fate the greater latitude,
keep eyes in both my hands
and look no farther than I can touch.
My translation of the sonnet “Verde embeleso de la vida humana” (1688) by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I first shared it in a blog post back in 2007: “Through green glasses.” Rather than simply re-posting it, I decided to add value by making a videopoem, and roped in my Via Negativa co-author Luisa Igloria to contribute a reading for the soundtrack. The norm for videopoems of translated texts is to put the original language in the soundtrack and the translation in subtitles, but I decided to reverse that here, just as an experiment. I wanted to make the poem feel less foreign to an English-language audience.
I thought of the poem only after I filmed the meadow footage featured in the video. (That’s my parents’ front lawn. Dad always waits to mow until after the dandelions and ajuga are done blooming; they share my general preference for weeds over boring grass.) I love films with long, stationary or slowly panning shots in which the world is simply going about its business, and the original plan for this videopoem was to have that, the titling, and nothing else. But mid-way through the editing process, I woke up early one morning with the idea of adding crowds of people as an overlay. One thing led to another, I found some crazy-ass 1960s TV ads in the Prelinger Archives, and by last night I finally had something I was happy with. For the music, I used a public-domain guitar interpretation of Albéniz from Wikimedia, reasoning that something from the 19th century would help bridge the gap between the 17th and 21st centuries. For the same reason, I used a contemporary-looking font with serifs.
To my mind, a videopoem that doesn’t reinterpret the text in a manner different from what its author intended isn’t a real videopoem. But as Lorca much later showed, verde (green) is one of those words with an almost unlimited number of connotations. So this is more than a translation; it’s a complete re-imagining. Then again, human nature hasn’t changed in the last 400 years, and deciding to live in the moment rather than living in hope is, if anything, wiser than ever.