Monday, March 23, 2020


The Hollow Men

Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645), "Desengaño de la exterior apariencia con el examen interior y verdadero" (tr. Eric Thomson):
Do you see this stout Giant
parading with haughty gravity?
Well, inside he's all rags and stuffing,
which some hireling holds aloft.

Alive and animate he moves about,
condescending where his mighty spirit wills,
yet examine his stiff demeanour
and you'll scorn his painted pomp.

Such are the grandiose appearances
of Tyrants and their vain illusions,
grotesque and preeminent dross.

See how they're ablaze in purple, their fingers gleaming
with diamonds and precious stones
while inside — nausea, filth and worms.

¿Miras este Gigante corpulento
que con soberbia y gravedad camina?
Pues por de dentro es trapos y fajina,
y un ganapán le sirve de cimiento.

Con su alma vive y tiene movimiento,
y adonde quiere su grandeza inclina,
Mas quien su aspecto rígido examina
desprecia su figura y ornamento.

Tales son las grandezas aparentes
de la vana ilusión de los tiranos,
fantásticas escorias eminentes.

¿Veslos arder en púrpura, y sus manos
en diamantes y piedras diferentes?
Pues asco dentro son, tierra y gusanos.
Another translation, by Willis Barnstone in Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993), p. 29:
Do you see this fat giant of a man
strolling along with haughty gravity?
Well, inside he's a mess of rags, a pan
of trash, a young brat keeps from anarchy.

He moves about, parading his live soul,
and aims his greatness anywhere he wants;
yet gaze astutely at this emerald mole,
you'll laugh at all the ornaments he flaunts.

Such are the grandiose and pretentious ways
of tyrants living by their vain illusions,
those eminent, fantastic bags of germs.

They burn in purple as their fingers blaze
with diamonds and hard gems in white profusion,
while inside they are nausea, earth, and worms.
See Tyler Fisher, "Giants on Parade, Tyrants Aflame in Quevedo's Sonnet 'Desengaño de la exterior apariencia'," in Aaron M. Kahn, ed., On Wolves and Sheep: Exploring the Expression of Political Thought in Golden Age Spain (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), pp. 197-211.

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