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Old 05-08-2017, 04:11 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 5,101
Default López--Hotel Nights

Another cheery little sonnet by a Mexican modernist—this time Ramón López Velarde (1881-1921). Meter is tetradecasyllabic (fourteen syllables), rhyme scheme is ABAB CDDC EEF GFG.


They’re oddly entertaining, these hotel-room miseries,
a heterogeneity whose jumble never bores:
Yankees, preachers, tinkers damned for faithless guarantees,
just-wed, ingenue-ish girls, and jaded, teenaged whores.

In closed-door gloom... the chipped moon makes a copy of the guest
within its tarnished mercury; and wafting in between
the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of spartan mien
floats angst from trips more obviously jinxed as they’ve progressed.

The native land stayed out of reach; the family, remote;
and in the gray departure hour, the traveller takes note
that in this world, some journeys are disastrous, some fantastic,

but passing through the vile hotel together, they commune—
the death throes of the overdosed sophisticate (now spastic)
accompany the frenzied thrustings of the honeymoon.

L1 was: They’re awfully amusing, these hotel-room miseries,
L7 was: the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of shifty mien
L9 was: the childhood haunts stayed out of reach, the family remote
L10 was: and in the gray departure hour, the wanderer takes note
L11 was: that in this world, some journeys lead to joy and some to crying:
L12 was: that passing through the vile hotel together, both commune—
L13 was: the paroxysms of the cosmopolitan who’s dying
L14 was: trail off just like the frantic thrustings of the honeymoon.
L14 was: trail off with the frenetic thrustings of the honeymoon.

Text at

Se distraen las penas en los cuartos de hoteles

con el heterogéneo concurso divertido

de yanquis, sacerdotes, quincalleros infieles,

niñas recién casadas y mozas del partido.

Media luz... copia al huésped la desconchada luna

en su azogue sin brillo; y flota en calendarios,

en cortinas polvosas y catres mercenarios

la nómada tristeza de viajes sin fortuna.

Lejos quedó el terruño, la familia distante

y en la hora gris del éxodo medita el caminante

que hay jornadas luctuosas y alegres en el mundo:

que van pasando juntos por el sórdido hotel

con el cosmopolita dolor del moribundo

los alocados lances de la luna de miel.

Literal English prose crib:


They are amusing, the pains/troubles in the rooms of hotels,
with the heterogeneous confluence (that is) entertaining
of Yankees, priests, tinkers who are faithless,
girls recently married and prostitutes (lit. “young women of the game”).

(In) half light... copies the guest/lodger (direct object of “copies”) the chipped moon (subject of “copies)
within its mercury without shine; and floats in between calendars,
in between curtains (that are) dusty and cots (that are) mercenary/cheap
the nomadic sadness (subject of “floats”) of voyages without luck.

Far stayed the native land, the family distant
and in the hour (that is) gray of the exodus meditates the traveler (lit. “the walker”)
that there are journeys tragic and happy in the world:

that they (i.e., the “throws/duels” below) go passing together through the sordid hotel
with the cosmopolitan sorrow of the dying man
the frantic throws/duels (plural subject of “go passing”) of the honeymoon.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-22-2017 at 06:39 PM. Reason: Extensive revisions
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Old 05-11-2017, 06:04 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 348

Hi Julie,

I can't really judge the Spanish, but the English is very nice. My only thoughts would be to add two commas:
in S2, after guest, just for a breath really;
and in S3, after family, to make it clear that this is not a TV remote.

I have no other suggestions at present, I thought this reads very well!

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Old 05-14-2017, 12:32 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 5,101

Thanks very much, John.

I've tweaked L9 and incorporated your suggested comma there (and also gone with the more straightforward "native land" instead of "childhood haunts").

I'm hesitant to put the other comma you suggested into that whole complicated chipped moon/tarnished mercury business. To me it seems important not to take a breath until all the components of that complicated metaphor are ready to be tallied up into "Oh, he's describing a..."
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