Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Reminders of Death

A sonnet by Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645), tr. D. Gareth Walters:
I looked at the walls of my native place, once strong and now dilapidated, weary with the passing of time, as a result of which their strength is now sapped. I went out into the countryside, I saw that the sun drank the streams released from ice, and the cattle complaining that the mountain stole their daylight with its shadows. I went into my house; I saw that it was the rubble of an old, tarnished habitation; my walking-stick, more curved and less strong; I felt my sword overcome by age. And I found nothing on which to set my eyes that was not a reminder of death.
The same, tr. Willis Barnstone:
I gazed upon my country's tottering walls,
one day grandiose, now rubble on the ground,
worn out by vicious time; only renowned
for weakness in a land where courage fails.
I went into the fields. I saw the sun
drinking the springs just melted from the ice,
and cattle moaning as the forests climb
against the thinning day, now overrun
with shade. I went into my house. I saw
my old room yellowed with with the sickening breath
of age, my cane flimsier than before.
I felt my sword coffined in rust, and walked
about, and everything I looked at bore
a warning of the wasted gaze of death.
The Spanish:
Miré los muros de la patria mía,
si un tiempo fuertes, ya desmoronados,
de la carrera de la edad cansados,
por quien caduca ya su valentía.
Salíme al campo, vi que el sol bebía
los arroyos del yelo desatados,
y del monte quejosos los ganados,
que con sombras hurtó su luz al día.

Entré en mi casa; vi que, amancillada,
de anciana habitación era despojos;
mi báculo, más corvo y menos fuerte;

vencida de la edad sentí mi espada,
y no hallé cosa en que poner los ojos
que no fuese recuerdo de la muerte.

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