In Translation

More Spanish poetry in translation: the two by Benedetti are pretty light-hearted, especially the second one. In a way that’s slightly more difficult to translate, since it’s less about using the right English word for the multiple – or single – meanings you think the poet’s aiming for, and more about trying to get the sense of humour right. Which is why I put in the limerick-stylee alternative version of Once.

Lorca’s poem is very compressed, but beautiful, I think, in its economy. Pretentious, yo?

You’ll be able to track these permanently on the In Translation page.

Also coming soon, a short story by a guy called Victor Olivares that’s been a mite tricky to get right.

Mario Benedetti

Message in a Bottle (Botella al Mar)

I’m putting these six lines in my bottle,

with the secret design that, one day,

it washes up on a near-empty beach, and a child finds it,

opens it, and instead of lines pulls out

warnings and assistance,

and pebbles and snails.


The Eleventh Commandment (Once)

No holy man of the church

has known how to explain

why there is no

eleventh commandment:

that orders women

not to covet their neighbour’s husband.


Commandment XI (alternative version)

We feel that the priest

should explain, at the least,

why no eleventh commandment’s been passed.

Women can’t get to heaven,

says commandment eleven,

coveting neighbouring pieces of ass.


Federico Garcia Lorca

The Silence

Listen, my son, to the silence.

It’s a silence with undulations:

a silence, where valleys and echoes slide,

a silence that forces you, listening,

to bow your head to the ground.


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