Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chinese Translation of "Cultivo una rosa blanca"



原作者:José Martí
译者:yuyuliuxiahui (translator)

Literal translation of the Chinese version:

I planted a white rose
In the heat of July
And in the cold of January,
And I put it in the hand
Of my true friend.

And for my enemy,
Who cruelly tears my living heart,
I place in his hand
Neither thorns nor nettles:
For him, also, I planted a white rose.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Translation of José Martí's First Great Poem: "A Emma"

In José Martí's lifetime, this beautiful poem, written in a deaf girl's album, was invariably cited in every biographical sketch that made any allusion to his poetry as his best known work. It is indeed a perfect poem of matchless sensibility, worthy of Spain's Golden Age and even of classical antiquity. It has that quality of always having existed which is the essence of immortality. Is this Martí's greatest poem? It is certainly his first great poem. Ismaelillo fulfilled its promise and Versos sencillos elevated Spanish poetry to the greatest height it had reached in more than two centuries. The recognition of that fact would come after Martí's death. In his day, it was "A Emma" that won him whatever renown he enjoyed as a poet. For that reason, this poem was especially dear to him and should be dear to us, too. I have been trying to translate it for decades. In my translation of the Versos sencillos, I had to make many unavoidable compromises which the retention of the original rhyme scheme decreed. Notwithstanding that fact, at least half of the 46 translations are as perfect as I (or anybody) could make them. In translating "To Emma," however, I was not disposed to accept any compromise. In an extended work such as the Versos sencillos, the scope and sweep of the symphony drowns out the occasional discordant note produced by the clash of languages. In a precious little gem like "A Emma" there can be no occlusions. It must be perfect in every respect since perfection is what defines it. And so I think its translation will always remain a work in progress. This version in blank verse is so far the most satisfying to me. My object, of course, is to cast it in rhyme while preserving every other element of the original. Is this possible? I believe it is, though that certainty necessarily entails accepting the premise that two languages can be interchangeable (which evidently is not the case). Still, I persist because, contrary to common belief, lightning can and has struck the same person twice (and more than twice). Until then, I offer this version because there has to be one English translation of this important poem available somewhere after 140 years.

Written during his first exile in Spain, when he was 19, this poem was inspired by and dedicated to Emma Goróstegui y Campuzano, wrongly identified in all anthologies by only her maternal surname. "A Emma" appears in numerous sites on the internet, where invariably the wrong date of its composition is given ("1883" instead of 1872) and the last line is transcribed incorrectly (substituting "mujeres" for palabras) with very unhappy results.

A Emma

No sientas que te falte
el don de hablar que te arrebata el cielo,
no necesita tu belleza esmalte
ni tu alma pura más extenso vuelo.
No mires, niña mía,
en tu mutismo fuente de dolores,
ni llores las palabras que te digan
ni las palabras que te faltan llores.
Si brillan en tu faz tan dulces ojos
que el alma enamorada se va en ellos,
no los nublen jamás tristes enojos,
que todas las palabras de mis labios,
no son una mirada de tus ojos...

Madrid, 10 de julio de 1872

To Emma

Do not feel sad, dear child, because you lack
The gift of speech which heaven has denied you:
Your beauty and pure soul do not require,
Nor are there, words that can soar any higher.
Let not your deafness be a source of sorrow,
Nor cry because of words you cannot hear,
Nor cry because of words you cannot say;
For such sweet eyes light up your countenance,
A loving heart but sees and is lost in them.
Never allow your tears to dim their brightness;
For all the words that ever crossed my lips
Ne'er said as much as one look from your eyes.

Madrid, July 10, 1872.