Lorca's Poet in New York

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Re: Lorca's Poet in New York

Postby B4real » Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:36 am

Jean, Thanks again for your major efforts here!
Glad you found “Little Ashes” helpful and the Spanish subtitles are indeed more appropriate.
Vickie wrote: As for French, it is definitely the pronunciation that is kicking me in the butt.
Vickie, I found the second IPA links I posted are most useful to help say it the right way and I think you will too!

As you all know I am working on becoming multi-lingual but I know it will take a long time for that to happen. And speaking of many languages, as happenstance would have it, yesterday I watched an interesting programme on TV called “The Real Tower of Babel”. It mentions the biblical story (Genesis CH 11) of it relating to the reason all humans who previously spoke only one language being forced to speak many languages. It was stated that the tower’s existence and location in ancient Babylon has been proved first in 1913 by a German archaeologist. They showed further evidence of its actual existence. The link below has some content of the TV programme - https://www.someinterestingfacts.com/hi ... -of-babel/

And thanks Jean, that’s reassuring to know if I run into a language problem I can ask you!

Now I'm not going to babble on (Babylon) ;-) any longer and am continuing with my studies.
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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Jean Fournell
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Location: Provence

Re: Lorca's Poet in New York

Postby Jean Fournell » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:01 am

Many thanks once again for your appreciation, Bev!
And do ask me hoping I can help…

Previously I had skipped this:
B4real wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:12 am
While looking through that most bloody of poems, The King of Harlem, this line caught my eye, “there must be some way out of here” – it’s the same line from a Bob Dylan song, All Along The Watchtower. It begins with, “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief”… :)
Bob Dylan published "All Along the Watchtower" in 1967, on the album "John Wesley Harding".
The S&W translation of PNY, in the bilingual edition by Christopher Maurer, was first published in 1988.
So it should be very clear who is the rightful owner of the line "There must be some way out of here" which S&W are stealing (since they don't mention the origin), instead of dutifully translating Federico García Lorca's "¡Hay que huir!".

¡Hay que huir!,
huir por las esquinas y encerrarse en los últimos pisos,
porque el tuétano del bosque penetrará por las rendijas
para dejar en vuestra carne una leve huella de eclipse
y una falsa tristeza de guante desteñido y rosa química.

Got to flee!,
flee around the corners and lock oneself in on the top floors,
because the pith of the woodland will enter through the cracks
to leave in your flesh a slight trace of an eclipse
and a false sadness of withered glove and chemical rose.

Before "Cielo vivo", here the remaining passages "in question":

All the world’s light fits inside an eye.
The rooster crows and his song lasts longer than his wings.
~ Nocturne of Emptied Space (111)
The sequence is Ok, but the title should be (at least): "Nocturne of Empty Space"

My heart would take the shape of a shoe
if a siren lived in every village.
~ Moon and Panorama of the Insects (121)
Mi corazón tendría la forma de un zapato
si cada aldea tuviera una sirena.
My heart would have the form of a shoe
if each hamlet had a siren.

there was no other way to escape except through the needle’s eye.
~ Crucifixion (143)
Los tres niños en el arrabal rodeaban a un camello blanco
que lloraba porque al alba
tenía que pasar sin remedio por el ojo de una aguja.
The three boys in the borough rounded up a white camel
that sobbed because at dawn
it would inevitably have to pass through a needle's eye.

Tomorrow, loves will become stones, and Time
a breeze that drowses in the branches
~ Ode to Walt Whitman (155)
Mañana los amores serán rocas y el Tiempo
una brisa que viene dormida por las ramas.
Tomorrow, loves will be rocks, and Time
a breeze coming sleepily through the branches.

No one weeps because he understands ~The Poet Prays to the Virgin for Help (193)
For this sequence, translated by Christopher Maurer, I have not yet found the Spanish original, and so I cannot say anything about it.

Here now a poem that exceeds my translating skills. I can't suggest any better than some rough approximation.

Cielo vivo

Yo no podré quejarme
si no encontré lo que buscaba.
Cerca de las piedras sin jugo y los insectos vacíos
no veré el duelo del sol con las criaturas en carne viva.

Pero me iré al primer paisaje
de choques, líquidos y rumores
que trasmina a niño recién nacido
y donde toda superficie es evitada,
para entender que lo que busco tendrá su blanco de alegría
cuando yo vuele mezclado con el amor y las arenas.

Allí no llega la escarcha de los ojos apagados
ni el mugido del árbol asesinado por la oruga.
Allí todas las formas guardan entrelazadas
una sola expresión frenética de avance.

No puedes avanzar por los enjambres de corolas
porque el aire disuelve tus dientes de azúcar,
ni puedes acariciar la fugaz hoja del helecho
sin sentir el asombro definitivo del marfil.

Allí bajo las raíces y en la médula del aire,
se comprende la verdad de las cosas equivocadas.
El nadador de níquel que acecha la onda más fina
y el rebaño de vacas nocturnas con rojas patitas de mujer.

Yo no podré quejarme
si no encontré lo que buscaba,
pero me iré al primer paisaje de humedades y latidos
para entender que lo que busco tendrá su blanco de alegría
cuando yo vuele mezclado con el amor y las arenas.

Vuelo fresco de siempre sobre lechos vacíos.
Sobre grupos de brisas y barcos encallados.
Tropiezo vacilante por la dura eternidad fija
y amor al fin sin alba. Amor. ¡Amor visible!

Eden Mills, Vermont, 24 de agosto de 1929

Methinks, the main difficulty in this poem is to first of all understand what it is about.
Federico García Lorca is a kind of surrealist, but he does not subscribe to things like André Breton's automatic writing. As far as I can see, he does not deliver absurdity he delivers enhanced reality. We might have a hard time discovering this reality, but it is there. And in order to translate, we should have found it, lest we simply google-translate mere haphazard words shaken out of the dictionary.

● In "Cielo vivo", the difficulties start with the identities of the characters involved the first-person narrator, and especially the "you" addressed in stanza 4.
This stanza 4, the central stanza of the poem, functions like a deforming mirror placed between stanzas 1-2-3 and stanzas 5-6-7 (I-I-There versus There-I-I ; but consisting of 4-6-4 lines versus 4-5-4 lines). So, by opposition to "I" and "There", the outstanding "you" in stanza 4 is of particular importance for our comprehension of the entire poem.
We also will have to find out what to make of "tus dientes de azúcar" and of "asombro definitivo del marfil".
But without the help of some further indications, I'm afraid we'd be lost…

Fortunately, Christopher Maurer, the editor of Bev's and my bilingual version of PNY, has quite a few "Notes on the poems", and on page 272-273 he says:

The Ms. is dated "cabaña de Dew-Kum-Inn. Edem Mills — Vermont — 24 de agosto — 1929", a reference to the lakeside cottage rented by the Cummings family. […] Cummings told Kessel Schwartz that the poem (or perhaps only the title) "was inspired by a night of brilliant aurora borealis activity as the lake reflected the lights against a pitch-black Mount Norris"

My take is that the whole poem is a description of this scenery, not only the title. In this hypothesis, the "I"-character is the aurora borealis; and the "you"-character is Mount Norris; and both of them are seen in reality as well as reflected on Lake Eden.

It is Mount Norris then who has "dientes de azúcar":
The mountain's skyline, reflected in the lake, looks like "teeth" because of the ripples on the water surface, due to a light breeze. So these "teeth" are liquid; and since they are "pitch-black", they are seen as rotten teeth, supposedly decayed because of too much sugar.
(If they were made of sugar, once dissolved they would be invisible. They are dissolved (in the sense of being liquid) by the air, which causes the ripples.)

Technically, these "teeth" on the water cannot advance through the corollas, the flowers, the reflections of the aurora borealis because in the sky, the original mountain and the original aurora borealis do not overlap, and so the reflections cannot overlap either.

The "a-" in "asombro" functions like the "as-" in English "ascertained". Literally, "asombro" means "made sombro". The term "sombro" is not merely negative as in English "sombre", but it has a positive aspect, too a sombrero hat provides a large protection from sun and rain.
The meaning of "asombro" covers horror and panic as well as astonishment and wonder.
Leonard Cohen has "O Crown of Light, O Darkened One" (in "Boogie Street") and "while a shadowy guest / Kindles a light for the lost" (in "Different Sides"), but these wouldn't work here. We'll have to find our own helpless translation for something that is tending in both directions, towards awe and towards admiration.

The first-person narrator evokes "the ivory" both in memory of the times when the mountain's "teeth" were still as healthy as those of the fern-leaf, and because the reflection of the mountain seems like an elephant indeed as compared to the size of the ferns. Fern is also much more short-lived than the mountain although, in turn, the aurora borealis is much more short-lived than the leaves, of course…

Starting out from this basis, we might hopefully be able to make some sense of the whole poem, and thence translate…

● In Spanish, the personal pronoun needn't be used if the conjugation leaves no doubt. If nevertheless the pronoun is expressed, this serves the purpose of underlining.
The only such underlinings in "Cielo vivo" are the four occurrences of "yo" (first person singular "I"), in S1L1, S2L6, S6L1, and S6L5, where both the future "podré" and the subjunctive present "vuele" are clearly first person singular.
(Lorca resists the temptation also to underline the "you" in S4, and thereby to exaggerate the contrast of "I" versus "you", of the dynamic aurora borealis (the "living sky") versus the static mountain.)
The stressing of this "Me, I.." should be translated identically in the four occurrences ideally , but that is beyond my skills, and so I'll regretfully have to use two different solutions.

● In S1L4, the "carne viva" should reflect the "cielo vivo" of the title.

● S&W interpret rather than translate "los insectos vacíos" in S1L3 as "the husks of insects". But in S7L1, we have the mirror image "lechos vacíos"; and both "vacíos" should be translated identically. That would either entail the rather daring interpretation "husks of beds", or the use of "empty" in both cases, maintaining (as does the author) the insects as insects. (Empty insects are still insects; husks are something else.)

● In S2L3, "trasmina" means that the "first landscape" reaches the baby's perceptual apparatus in spite of the slime still covering its skin, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.
(Leonard Cohen has "Your first commitments tangible again", in "Alexandra Leaving".)

● In S2L5 and S6L4, "blanco" is the centre of the target; and in this context, "tener" is "to aim".

● For S2L6 and S6L5, I must correct my previous suggestion.
The presence of "yo" should make us reinforce the expression of the first person singular pronoun; and, more importantly, the "cuando" ought to be understood both as "as long as" and as "each time", even in case this "each time" should actually take place only once. Also, the use of the English simple present (instead of continuous) allows us to remove the comma before "mingled", thus avoiding an awkward break in the sequence.
It is while the aurora borealis flies (however often or rarely it may do so) that it understands that what it is looking for must and will take care of itself. And it is because of the restriction to this "cuando when" that the Spanish subjunctive is required.
(Leonard Cohen: "While Suzanne holds the mirror")
S&W say "jumbled". A jumble is a disorganised mix. Here we have a very harmonious scenery above Lake Eden, and this scenery is mirrored on the water. Nor are there any "sandstorms" (S&W). The love is above, the sands are on the beach of Lake Eden. The aurora borealis is flying in the air and on the water-mirror; it is mingled with all the elements of the scenery.

● Both S3 and its mirror image S5 begin with "Allí" (There).
The meaning of S3L1 is easy to understand: "The hoarfrost [of wearying experiences] does not get there" (that is, static as it is it cannot reach the dynamic "first landscapes" where the "I" does go). The problem is, that Lorca has not placed this "There" in the final position, but starts with it and that this initial position should be maintained in the translation. So we'll either have to accept some awkward syntax with "There" followed by the verb followed by the subject, or we'll have to reject the verb to the end of the sequence and yet keep it connected to the initial "There".
I have no really convincing solution for this problem.

● In S5, the term "médula" in L1, without any scientific specification, is the equivalent of colloquial English "marrow". We should not use S&W's scientific term "medulla".

The awkward passive "is comprehended" in S5L2 is all I can suggest. We need the idea of inclusion, and we need the incongruity of the situations in the following two lines, where, as Leonard Cohen has it, "once again, once again, / love calls you by your name". Now it would be nice if the translation could be as fluid as the original, but I'm afraid that's beyond my reach.

Line S5L3 is not difficult to translate (provided we understand and translate, instead of interpreting).
The swimmer consists entirely of nickel, it's not just a coating, as S&W's "chrome" suggests. Therefore he will have to provide constant tremendous efforts to keep himself afloat. So it would be a "mistake" to assume that in this struggle he'd be able to calmly "look out for the finest wave" among the big waves he is creating. But this opposition is transcended in the place called "There", or "the first landscape".

In line S5L4, the translation difficulty of the incongruous situation lies in the grammatical determination of the "patitas". They are small, they are red, they are of a woman's, and they belong to cows. These cows trample through the stars, or through their reflection on the water, with ballerinas' feet in delicate red shoes, or with bloody feet, from too much dancing.

● In S7L3, "vacilante" is not "sleepily", as S&W interpret rather than translate.
Spanish "vacilar" covers both physical instability and mental indecision. The narrator's physical instability is already expressed by "Tropiezo" (I stumble), and so we have to concentrate on the mental aspect, his hesitation. The dimension of "eternity" is hard and fixed, static and the aurora borealis, dynamic, has access not only to "eternity" but also to passing-time ("I stumble") and to potentiality ("hesitantly").

● The most difficult sequence, for my translating skills, is "amor al fin sin alba" in the last line, S7L4. The English "end" has a weaker double meaning (both termination and purpose) than the Spanish "fin", where the notion of purpose is much stronger.
(Leonard Cohen, in "Dance Me To The End Of Love", reinforces this notion of purpose with the line "Dance me to the children who are asking to be born".)

We should be aware of the fact that in this poem Federico García Lorca is stepping forward to love as an end in itself.
In "Niña ahogada en el pozo" (Little Girl Drowned in the Well) and especially in "Iglesia abandonada" (Abandoned Church), his regret for the "unengendered child" is vivid enough.
(Christopher Maurer, in his introduction to PNY, mentions this expression in quotation marks (pages xxiv and xxv), but it is not clear to me what the Spanish original is and whether it was coined by Federico García Lorca or by José Ángel Valente.)
(The sequence "I […] realised that my little girl was a fish" in "Abandoned Church" has a ring of the smell of dead sperm. And the other dead "little girl", floating down in the well, very much resembles a spermatozoon that will not get to any ovum.)

Leonard Cohen's superb illustration of this last stanza, in "If I Didn't Have Your Love", leads us to understand that the last three words of the poem, "Amor. ¡Amor visible!" (Love. Visible love! ) are not only the narrator's words, but that the author (and hopefully the reader, certainly the translator) are chiming in.

Lorca's step forward to love as an end in itself, "visible" in the aurora borealis, in a "living sky" instead of in a child of "living flesh", allows him to fully accept his homosexuality and the resulting childlessness, as expressed in "Little Viennese Waltz".
And we here on this forum should also be aware of the fact that Leonard Cohen who comprehends things "in the marrow of the air", in his oh so frequent "changing from nothing to one" ("You Know Who I Am") goes and answers this koan by naming his own real life little girl of living flesh Lorca !

Living Sky

Me, I won't be able to complain
if I didn't find what I was looking for.
Close to the juiceless stones and the empty insects
I won't see the duel of the sun with the creatures of living flesh.

But I'll take myself to the first landscape
of shocks, fluids, and murmurs
that filters through to the new-born child
and where all superficies is avoided,
so as to understand that what I'm looking for will aim dead-centre for its cheerfulness
when I myself fly mingled with love and the sands.

There, the hoarfrost of the extinguished eyes cannot access,
nor the roar of the tree murdered by the caterpillar.
There, all forms, intertwined, keep up
one single frantic expression of forwardness.

You can't get forward through the swarms of corollas
because the air dissolves your sugar-teeth,
nor can you caress the furtive leaf of the fern
without feeling the definite uncanniness of the ivory.

There, beneath the roots and in the marrow of the air,
is comprehended the truth of the mistaken things.
The nickel swimmer who looks out for the finest wave
and the herd of nocturnal cows with red little woman-feet.

Me, I won't be able to complain
if I didn't find what I was looking for,
but I'll take myself to the first landscape of humidities and heartbeats
so as to understand that what I'm looking for will aim dead-centre for its cheerfulness
when I myself fly mingled with love and the sands.

I fly ever cool over empty beds.
Over flocks of breezes and stranded boats.
I stumble hesitantly through the hard, fixed eternity
and love whose end has no dawn. Love. Visible love!

Eden Mills, Vermont, 24th of August 1929
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)

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