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Pablo Neruda, Poorly Translated

July 20, 2014

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Over the Fourth of July holiday, we joined some old friends on our annual Tahoe trip. On the bookshelf in the house we rented, we found a book by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Each poem was in its original Spanish accompanied by the English translation. Poetry is notoriously hard to translate, but being the nerds we are and having each taken four years of high school Spanish (plus a decent amount of High West translation juice), we decided we could probably nail it. Here’s the original poem in Spanish, our three translations (identities spared), and the actual translation. I think our translations are poetic in their own right. My favorite part is that we all knew that “verano” was one of the seasons, but each guessed a different incorrect season. Verano is summer.

 

ES LA MAÑANA LLENA
by Pablo Neruda

Es la mañana llena de tempestad
en el corazón del verano.

Como pañuelos blancos de adiós viajan las nubes,
el viento las sacude con sus viajeras manos.

Innumerable corazón del viento
latiendo sobre nuestro silencio enamorado.

Zumbando entre los árboles, orquestal y divino,
como una lengua llena de guerras y de cantos.

Viento que lleva en rápido robo la hojarasca
y desvía las flechas latientes de los pájaros.

Viento que la derriba en ola sin espuma
y sustancia sin peso, y fuegos inclinados.

Se rompe y se sumerge su volumen de besos
combatido en la puerta del viento del verano.

 

BAD TRANSLATION #1
THE TOMORROW IS LEFT

The morning is left to time
in the heart of the winter.

Like white panels of memories forgotten
the season of sorrow with your old hands.

Innumerable heart of seasons
celebrating our silent love.

Finding between the tree, ornate and divine
like a lost language of musicians I sing

The season leaves quickly, robbing the elegance
and fate of the latent parade

Seasons felt in my heard and
sustained without coin and inching fires

You play and below the volume of friendship
combating in the door of seasons of winter.

 

BAD TRANSLATION #2
YOU ARE THE PRETTY MORNING

You are the pretty morning tempestuous
in the heart of the autumn

Like white robes of the black missionary
the priest seduces them with his traveling hands

Immeasurable heart of the past
passing over our loving silence

Singing between the trees, orchestral and pure
like a language of warriors and singers

I left that you could return in quick procession
and deceived the latent flight of the parrots

I left that you could sleep without snoring (?)
and sustain without money and ignited fires

The songs to submerge your volume of kisses
come between the door of the autumn left

BAD TRANSLATION #3
IT IS THE SLOW TOMORROW

It is the slow tomorrow of time
in the heart of the spring

With the white pain of goodbyes passing between the children,
the sacred wind of their waving hands

Innumerable hearts blow
together over our lovely silence

Changing colors appear on the trees, musical and divine
with a language of war and song.

The wind quickly washes the seaside
and witnesses the slow change of the seasons.

The wind that blows without care
and without thought, and fierce fire.

It beats and covers the sound of kisses,
fights in the doorway of the wind of spring.

 

ACTUAL TRANSLATION
THE MORNING IS FULL

The morning is full of storm
in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of goodbye,
the wind, travelling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind
beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees
like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid
and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds.

Wind that topples her in a wave without spray
and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,
assailed in the door of the summer’s wind.

 

So sorry, Pablo.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 12, 2017 9:13 am

    I was looking up translations for this poem and found this — very amusing.

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