Thursday, April 03, 2008

BillyBlog's Favorite Poems, #28 (Any One of Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems, But Not the Song of Despair)

Ask anyone to name their top 30 favorite poems, and most may show you their best deer-in-the-headlights stare.

My top five will be definite, and six through twenty are more or less fixed. But the bottom ten, these are the toughest. If you asked me in two months I'd probably shuffle them up, exclude one or include another. So don't hold me to this list.

Number twenty-eight goes to Pablo Neruda. Really, it's unfair to his memory to simply select a single poem of his, translated into English, but I am actually going to color outside of the lines and select an entire volume.

The book in question is Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. This book occurs in many different formats, but I am holding aloft the volume translated by W. S. Merwin and illustrated by Jan Thompson.


This edition is one of the most beautiful books of poetry I have ever seen. My copy is a first edition (thus, as the book dealers would say, meaning first edition of this particular incarnation) and is signed by Merwin.

If anyone were asking me to suggest a book of poems, it would be this one.

I personally moved a lot of copies in my B.Dalton/Barnes & Noble days.

Here's the last poem in the selection:

XX

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.

Escribir, por ejemplo: "La noche está estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos".

El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.

En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos árboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque éste sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.


XX

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to a pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.





And a little YouTube bonus:

2 comments:

Andrew said...

this is not a very good translation

Bill Cohen said...

By all means, sir, please point us to a better translation.