Alejo Carpentier – Los Pasos Perdidos Sunday, Sep 26 2010 

A long time ago I posted a translation of a Pablo Neruda poem that I enjoyed quite a bit. That translation was not mine, and it has been a long time since I’ve tried any heavy translating, but I thought I would give it a quick try.

Los Pasos Perdidos, written by Alejo Carpentier, is one of my favorite novels in Spanish. This quote comes from a moment when the protagonist is struck by the seemingly purposeful beauty that surrounds him. Traveling on the River Orinoco, he thinks the following:

“Llego a preguntarme a veces si las formas superiores de la emoción estética no consistirán, simplemente, en un supremo entendimiento de lo creado. Un día, los hombres descubrirán un alfabeto en los ojos de las calcedonias, en los pardos terciopelos de la falena, y entonces se sabrá con asombro que cada caracol manchado era, desde siempre, un poema.”

And my translation:

“There are times when I wonder whether the superior forms of aesthetic emotion should not consist, simply, in a supreme understanding of creation. One day men will discover an alphabet in the eyes of chalcedony; in the velveted dun of the moth. And so it will be known, and wondered at, that each speckled snail’s shell was, from the beginning, a poem.”

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I am unsure if I really captured it or not, but I still like it. Any suggestions on the translation? Please improve it!

Pablo Neruda – Me gustas cuando callas Sunday, Oct 29 2006 

Taken from: Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. Escrito por Pablo Neruda

Translation: Copyrighted 1969 to W.S. Merwin, published 1969 by Grossman Publishers.

ISBN: 0-14-243770-0

Me gustas cuando callas

by Pablo Neruda

Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente,
y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te toca.
Parece que los ojos se te hubieran volado
y parece que un beso te cerrara la boca.

Como todas las cosas están llenas de mi alma
emerges de las cosas, llena del alma mía.
Mariposa de sueño, te pareces a mi alma,
y te pareces a la palabra melancolía.

Me gustas cuando callas y estás como distante.
Y estás como quejándote, mariposa en arrullo.
Y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te alcanza:
déjame que me calle con el silencio tuyo.

Déjame que te hable también con tu silencio
claro como una lámpara, simple como un anillo.
Eres como la noche, callada y constelada.
Tu silencio es de estrella, tan lejano y sencillo.

Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente.
Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto.
Una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan.
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.

English Translation (which stinks, but what can you do?)

I Like for You to be Still

I like for you to be still: it as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does not

    touch you

It seems as though your eyes had flown away
and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.

As all things are filled with my soul
you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.
You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,
and you are like the word Melancholy.

I like for you to be still, and you seem far away.
It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like

    a dove

And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach

    you:

Let me come to be still in your silence.

And let me talk to you with your silence
that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.
Your are like the night, with its stillness and constellations.
Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
distant and full of sorrow as though you had died.
One word then, one smile, is enough.
And I am happy, happy that it’s not true.

Pablo Neruda is my favorite spanish speaking poet, hands down. I know that most people don’t enjoy poetry at all, and even fewer guys do, but it’s really found a unique place in my life. Neruda directs his language so well in this poem, making you almost whisper most of it. Beautiful.