Sea of wood frogs

Direct link to video.

by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Siento que el barco mío
ha tropezado, allá en el fondo,
con algo grande.

¡Y nada
sucede! Nada…Quietud…Olas….
—¿Nada sucede; o es que la sucedido todo,
y estamos ya, tranquilos, en lo nuevo?—


I sense that my boat
has struck, deep down,
against some massive thing.

And nothing happens!
Nothing… silence… waves…
Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and we are already resting in the new life?


It may be a mistake to try and make a video for one of my favorite poems: I’ll never be satisfied with the results. In this case, my dissatisfaction is especially acute because one of the main things that made the footage so compelling to watch on my home computer — the complex patterns of waves — is excessively pixelated at anything but the highest of resolutions. Also, there’s some absurdity in visually equating the surface of a small, vernal pond with Jimenez’ “Seas.” Oh well.

For the translation, after much thought I decided to borrow from Robert Bly’s translation and render “lo nuevo” as “the new life,” instead of simply “the new,” because I think that is the gist of it. As always with my translations, I’d welcome suggestions of alternatives. I was trying to figure out some way to use “calm,” or a variation thereof, for “tranquilos,” but “becalmed” seemed over-reaching. It’s frustrating to have a clear idea of what the poem means and be unable to quite convey it.