Thursday 6 March 2008

Lemon (and a very quick translation)

copa amarilla
con milagros,
uno de los pezones olorosos
del pecho de la tierra,
el rayo de la luz que se hizo fruta,
el fuego diminuto de un planeta.

Yellow cup
Full of miracles
One of the sweet-smelling nipples
Of the breast of the earth,
A ray of light that became a fruit,
The diminutive fire of a planet

Pablo Neruda
Translation by Jodey Bateman
Full text in Spanish here, with another translation
(I like bits of both translations, the whole of neither)

(later) Since I don't find either translation quite satisfying, here's my own very quick try. No time to check the grammar or the false friends that speed has no doubt made me prey to .

From those blossoms
by the moonlight,
from that
smell of exasperated
buried in their fragrance,
the yellow

left the lemon tree,
the lemons
left their planetarium
and came down to earth.

What tender merchandise!
The quaysides and the markets
filled up with light,
with sylvan gold,
and we opened
the two halves
of a miracle,
frozen acid
from each of a star’s
two hemispheres,
and nature’s deepest wine,
immutable, alive and
was born from the freshness
of lemon,
from its fragrant home,
its secret, acid symmetry.

Into the lemon,
the knives cut
a small cathedral,
its hidden apse
opened acid windows
to the light,
the topazes,
the altars,
the fresh architecture
spilled out in drops.

So when your hand
pressed the hemisphere
of cut lemon
on your plate
you poured
a golden universe,
yellow cup
of miracles,
one sweet-smelling nipple
of the earth’s breast,

the ray of light made fruit,
the tiny fire of a planet.


Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Oh! So! Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Yes, amazing! So erotic I sip my hot lemon juice first thing this morning...

Lucy said...

Beautiful, I don't care about false friends and the rest, it's just gorgeous. My mouth is watering and puckering at once!

Anonymous said...

Oh gorgeous.

They're ripe, now, the lemons. Wish we had a tree.

Anonymous said...

Hey, good translation! Damn, though, I forgot Neruda used that cathedral image - I used it in a poem about a bell pepper. Unconscious plagiarism? Probably not; my memory's way too porous. Anyway, I do hope you'll try your hand at translation more often here. And if there's ever a chance you'd have the time to edit a translation issue of qarrtsiluni...

Dale said...


Szerelem said...

I really like that poem... your translation is great too! So is the picture :)

Jean said...

Dave, since this is my first ever translation of a poem, I wouldn't feel very qualified (never mind not having time), but maybe one day...

Anonymous said...

Jean, you translate for a living, do you not? There's nothing special about poetry. Nothing.

Jean said...

Dave, I think you're right. Where I didn't like the two translations of the Neruda was where they'd done too much...