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Old 05-23-2001, 08:29 AM
dorianne laux dorianne laux is offline
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Location: raleigh, nc. usa
Posts: 45

Sorrow, it is not true that I know you;
You are the nostalgia for a good life,
and the aloneness of the soul in shadow,
the sailing ship without wreck and without guide.

Like an abandoned dog who cannot find
a smell or a track and roams
along the roads, with no road, like
the child who in a night of the fair
gets lost among the crowd,
and the air is dusty, and the candles
fluttering, --astounded, his heart
weighed down by music and by pain;

thatUs how I am, drunk, sad by nature,
a mad and lunar guitarist, a poet,
and an ordinary man lost in dreams,
searching constantly for God among the mists.

--Antonio Machado

translated by Robert Bly

This is the first poem my husband recited to me when we were courting. I
had no idea what it meant beyond the fact that it made me sad and hopeful
at the same time. I asked him to recite it over and over and with each
listening I discovered something new about it. The first line was the
most intriguing for me-- how Machado says it is not true that he knows
sorrow, and yet all that follows is saturated with sorrow-- the ship, the
dog, the child, even the fair cannot save him from it, and in fact, makes
it only more known, more felt. The air itself is dusty with sorrow, the
candles, the music. I think I love most the line: Q astounded, his
heart/weighed down by music and by pain. We deny our sorrow, and yet it
is, in some odd way, a friend, a feeling that, as it pains us, also offers
us entrance into our deepest and truest nature.

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Old 05-24-2001, 01:57 AM
Nija Nija is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 40

Hi Dorianne,

I'm up the coast from you...I'm in Vancouver, BC. Your choice of an Antonio Machado warms my wee heart. I'm just beginning to read his works and have learned (and imitated) several of his devices. It's late, and I've just come home from a Yo-Yo Ma concert and post-concert, I'll quit here...but I'll come back and would love to see how this thread develops.

Nicole J.
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Old 05-25-2001, 07:04 AM
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Kate Benedict Kate Benedict is offline
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Location: New York, NY, USA
Posts: 2,192

Indeed, haunting. The speaker declares he does not know sorrow, but then the poem takes off, and at the end, he is sorrow; perhaps, in defining it, he has become it, or he realizes he has harbored sorrow all along -- as people do, as poets certainly must?

Aloneness and disappointment are components of sorrow, but most of all, for Machado, it is the experience of "lostness," isn't it? I've been thinking along similar lines too -- that being born a human person means you carry always the burden of some primal rupture or separation. Lostness.

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Old 05-25-2001, 02:53 PM
arielpf123 arielpf123 is offline
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Location: Walpole, NH USA
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what a lovely haunting poem. What I like best is the way the images capture the mood...esp. the lost at the fair line and the dusty air and fluttering that follow. This seems to reach me at some primitive level I don't quite understand. And, of course, there is the spiritual searching which is close to what I am trying to do in the poems that really matter to me... (which are also the ones I seem to have trouble getting published). About the thought in parenthesis: I wonder why that is?

pat fargnoli

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Old 05-26-2001, 12:10 AM
Kas Kas is offline
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For me, this was the most intriguing line of the poem:

You are the nostalgia for a good life

What a thought.

I think Machado makes a fascinating declaration with this line. It implies to me that a life that has known sorrow has also known its opposite; that a life that has known sorrow has in turn truly been a life. As the saying goes, in order to feel great joy one must also know great sadness. A passionate life.

Isn't it poems like these that make us read, and read, and read?
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Old 05-30-2001, 04:28 PM
robert mezey robert mezey is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Claremont CA USA
Posts: 573

Machado is indeed a wonderful poet, probably the
best of his generation. But I don't think the Bly
translation is any good. Not that he hasn't now and
then done some good stuff---his book of Kabir is an
old favorite of mine (though properly speaking, it's
not exactly a translation: he translated the English
of the scholar Underhill and the soppy English of
Rabindranath Tagore in his own English). I can't
really judge Robert's versions as translations; but
Kabir's poems are so alive, they come through with
great energy and passion. He is not nearly as good
with Spanish verse, as the above Machado poem shows.
(I might add, in passing, that "free verse mastery"
is a rare thing. It is much more difficult than
metrical verse and very few have done it well. At
least 98% of contemporary free verse is of no interest
as verse, is not really verse, strictly speaking.) For
whatever amusement it may provide, here's a parody I did
of Robert's translation style at its worst:


Que quiere el vento de encono
que baja por el barranco
y violenta las ventanas
mientras te visto de abrozos?

Derribamos. Arrastrarnos.

Derribadas. Arrastradas.
las dos sangres se alejaron.
Que sigue queriendo el viento,
cada vez mas enconado?


[my rough version]

What does it want, the rancorous wind,
that sweeps down the ravine
and shakes the windowpanes
while I robe you in my arms?

To humiliate us. Sweep us away.

Humiliated, swept away,
the two lifebloods drew apart.
What does it go on wanting, this wind
more rancorous every moment?

To separate us.

[as rendered by Captain Bly]

What wants the wild wind, anyway,
As it falls off the cliff
And violates the windows
While I give you a big hug?

To knock us down, drag us out.

Knocked up and drugged out,
Our bodily fluids bid each other adios.
What's the wind getting at with this line of questioning,
daily more tremendous?

To unglue us.

Rather unfair, I admit, but funny.

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Old 06-02-2001, 10:07 AM
dorianne laux dorianne laux is offline
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I'm never really sure about translations. I find that whatever translation I read first and love I tend to bond with on some emotional level, as well as on a language and rhythmic level, and am unable to see another as an improvement. Even if a line or two seems better, the poem as a whole finds its way into the fabric of my memory and I can't seem to dislodge it. I've actually never seen another translation of this particular poem but I like the grace of the language and images, the simplicity of the lines, and the mysterious quality the poem seems to retain. I'd love to see another translation posted and compare.

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Old 06-02-2001, 11:44 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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From Dana Gioia's essay, "The Successful Career of Robert Bly: "By propogating this minimal kind of translation Bly has done immense damage to American poetry. Translating quickly and superficially, he not only misrepresented the work of many great poets, he also distorted some of the basic standards of poetic excellence. His slapdash method ignored both the obvious formal qualitites of the originals (like rhyme and meter) and more crucially, those subtler organizing prinicples such as diction, tone, rhythm and texture that frequently gave the poems their intensity...In his hands, dramatically different poets like Lorca and Rilke, Montale and Machado, not only all sound alike, they all sounded like Robert Bly, and even then not like Bly at his best."
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Old 06-02-2001, 12:16 PM
dorianne laux dorianne laux is offline
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Location: raleigh, nc. usa
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Can you post some examples? I'd love to see another translation of Machado's poem in particular. I had no idea Bly was so reviled. He was one of the first to translate many of the poets you mention, wasn't he? If that's true, I guess we have to thank him for starting the whole debate, and more importantly, for bringing those voices into the light. Who are some of your favorite translators?
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Old 06-02-2001, 12:44 PM
mandolin mandolin is offline
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Location: Dameron, MD USA
Posts: 603

I certainly don't claim to have made a poem, (or even a perfectly literal translation, since there are parts I'm not sure of), but here is the Spanish from my Colleccion Austral of Machado's complete poems, followed by my attempt at Englishing it. Note that the translation above is only of the second part of the poem. I don't know if Bly translated the first part, but he made at least two substantive errors in what we have here -- the first line is flat wrong and contradicts what Machado wrote.

Es una tarde cenicienta y mustia,
destartalada, como el alma mia;
y es esta vieja angustia
que habita mi usual hipocondria.
La causa de esta angustia no consigo
ni vagamente comprender siquiera;
pero recuerdo, y, recordando, digo:
--Si, yo era nino, y tu, mi companera.


Y no es verdad, dolor, yo te conozco,
tu eres nostalgia de la vida buena
y soledad de corazon sombrio,
de barco sin naufragio y sin esrtrella.
Como perro olvidado que no tiene
huella ni olfato y yerra
por los caminos, sin camino, como
el nino que en la noche de una fiesta
se pierde entre el gentio
y el aire polvoriento y las candelas
chispeantes, atonito, y asombra
su corazon de musica y de pena,
asi voy yo, borracho melancolico,
guitarrista lunatico, poeta,
y pobre hombre en suenos,
siempre buscando a Dios entre la niebla.

my attempted translation -- NOT an attempt to make a poem of it -- with glosses in []s.

It is an ashen and withered afternoon,
broken-down, like my soul;
and it is the old aguish
that dwells in my melancholy. [can mean hypochondria)
La causa de esta angustia no consigo
ni vagamente comprender siquiera;
[the syntax here is beyond my Spanish, but it appears to mean "The cause of this anguish I don't understand nor even vaguely follow a little"]
but I remember, and, remembering, I say:
Yes, I was a boy, and you, my companion.

And it's not true, Sorrow, I know you, [Bly just got this wrong]
You are nostalgia for the good life
and [you are] the solitude of the shadowed heart,
of the boat without wrack and without a star.
Like a forgotten dog that has no
track nor scent [but literally "sense of smell"] and roams [with strong connotations or error]
the roads, with no road, like
the boy who on a festival night
gets lost among the crowd
and the dusty air and the sparkling candles, [sparkling's actually in the next line]
thunderstruck, his heart astonished [but it could be "shadowed']
with music and pain,
that's how I am [literally, "go"], melancholy drunk, [Bly ignores the punctuation here to make drunk an adjective rather than a noun]
lunatic guitarist, poet,
and a man poor in dreams, [not sure whether the unusual adjective first structure means this, or whether it should just be "poor man in dreams" -- or what that would mean]
always seeking God in the mists.
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