May Rain

rain dance.jpg

LLUVIA EN MAYO

¡Cuán hermosa tú, la desvelada!
Te lleva y te moldea dulce viento
encima de jardines y de estatuas.
Tu cuerpo es el de Venus en la orilla
eternamente mar dentro del alba.

Acude siempre a mí, séme propicia.
La fiesta de las hojas en sus ramas
te rinden los esbeltos soñadores
que en movibles racimos se levantan.

No tengo ni una flor… Sólo mi tronco
aloja por frutal una campana.
Lluvia que contemplo, melancólica:
no crezcas para mí. Vivo inundada.

Carmen Conde Abellán

 

MAY RAIN

How beautiful you, the restless!
The sweet wind takes you and molds you
over gardens and statues.
Your body is that of Venus on the shore
eternal sea at dawn.

Always go to me, I know myself propitious.
The revelry of leaves in their branches
the slender dreamers surrender to you
as they rise in moving clusters.

I have not even a flower … Only my stem
home for fruit like a bell*.
Rain I consider, melancholy:
Do not grow for me. Live flooded.

* One of the things that I love about attempting to translate poetry is that it can be really hard, and the process of trying to understand what the poet intended introduces me to new things and questions that I may not be able to answer. Take, por ejemplo, ‘mi tronco aloja por frutal una campana.’ That’s a short little phrase, right? Shouldn’t be too challenging.
Maybe. Except that ‘aloja’ means ‘house’, but in the verb sense (‘how will we house the new arrivals?’). And ‘frutal‘ means fruit, but in the adjective sense (‘fruit tree’). So ‘my stem houses for fruit a bell’? That can’t be right. Think hard about the syntax, and then I look at it some more, do some checking – and discover that there’s this fruit called a bell fruit. Could Conde Abellán have been referring to those?
And that’s just one line of the poem.
So I don’t know for sure. I do my best, try to maintain the spirit of the poem, and remember what Voltaire said about translation:
Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.
As always, comments and corrections are welcome.

 

(Carmen Conde Abellán (1907-1996) was a Spanish poet, teacher, co- founder of the first Popular University of Cartagena, and the first woman to become an Academic Numerary of the Real Academia Española, holding the ‘k’ seat.)

 

(Rain dance image by Theophilos Papadopoulos via Flickr.)

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