Rubén Darío, "Sinfonía en Gris Mayor"

translated from the Spanish by Brandon Holmquest


Sinfonía en Gris Mayor


El mar como un vasto cristal azogado
refleja la lámina de un cielo de zinc;
lejanas bandadas de pájaros manchan
el fondo bruñido de pálido gris.

El sol como un vidrio redondo y opaco
con paso de enfermo camina al cenit;
el viento marino descansa en la sombra
teniendo de almohada su negro clarín.

Las ondas que mueven su vientre de plomo
debajo de muelle parecen gemir.
Sentando en un cable, fumando su pipa,
está un viejo marinero pensando en las playas
de un vago, lejano, brumoso país.

Es viejo ese lobo. Tostaron su cara
los rayos de fuego del sol del Brasil;
los recios tifones del mar de la China
le han visto bebiendo su fracaso de gin.

La espuma impregnada de yodo y salitre
ha tiempo conoce su roja nariz,
sus crespos cabellos, sus bíceps de atleta,
su gorra de lona, su blusa de dril.

En medio del humo que forma el tabaco
ve el viejo el lejano, brumoso país,
adonde una tarde caliente y dorada
tendidas las velas partío el bergantín…

La siesta del trópico. El lobo se aduerme.
Ya todo lo envuelve la gama del gris.
Parece que un suave y enorme esfumino
del curvo horizonte borrara el confín.

La siesta del trópico. La vieja cigarra
ensaya su ronca guitarra senil,
y el grillo preludia un solo monótono
en la única cuerda que está en su violín.



Symphony in Gray Major

The sea like a vast mirrored crystal
reflects the zinc sheet of the sky;
far away, flocks of birds stain
the burnished edge pale gray.

The round sun, an opaque pane of glass
passes with a limp toward its zenith;
the sea wind resting in the shade
holds a black bugle for a pillow.

The waves that move their leaden bellies
under the pier, they seem to howl.
Sitting on a cable, smoking his pipe,
is an old sailor, thinking of the beaches
of a vague, distant, foggy country.

He is old, this wolf. His face has been
toasted by the Brazilian sun’s rays;
the forceful typhoons of China he has seen
while drinking from his flask of gin.

The foam pregnant with salt and iodine
has known in its time his red nose,
his curled chess pieces, his athlete’s biceps,
his canvas cap, his drill sweater.

In the midst of the tobacco smoke
the old man goes to the distant, foggy
country, to a hot, golden afternoon where
the brigand quickly departs from the watch.

The tropical siesta. The wolf sleeps.
All now enveloped in the gamut of gray.
It seems that the boundaries are erased
by the smooth, enormous curve of the horizon.

The tropical siesta. The old cicada
practices her snoring, senile guitar,
and the cricket preludes a lone monotone
on the only string of his violin.


• • •

Rubén Darío (1867-1916), the Nicaraguan poet who served as the chief figure in the Modernismo movement in Latin America, published his first major collection of poety, Azul… in 1888. The volume met with mixed, even virulent reviews from notable figures such as Miguel de Unamuno and Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo. Luckily the book ended up in the hands of the Spanish critic Juan Valera, whose praise cemented the book’s importance. Sinfonía en Gris Mayor appeared in 1891.


• • •

[Calque will be periodically featuring new translations of poetry or short prose. These translations will run on the front page for a week. The feature will then be given a permanent link in the translators page. To submit single pieces for online publication, email us.]



4 comments:

Micah said...

los recios tifones del mar de la China
le han visto bebiendo su fracaso de gin.


...would mean that the typhoons have seen him. Losing the personification here seems a pity.

Also, flask for "fracaso"?

Anonymous said...

agreed with above. The forceful typhoons of the Chinese sea have seen him drinking from his flask of gin.

Also, sus crespos cabellos
Curly hair.

And En medio del humo que forma el tabaco ve el viejo el lejano, brumoso país

Would be more like, The old man sees the misty, faraway country in the smoke from the tobacco.

Anonymous said...

Having studied the text previously, from what I call, the word rendered "fracaso" here is actually "frasco", which is correctly translated "flask". Also, I agree with Micah re the loss of personification. Actually, the entire translation has lost that certain poetic feeling.

Afet said...

This strophe,

En medio del humo que forma el tabaco
ve el viejo el lejano, brumoso país,
adonde una tarde caliente y dorada
tendidas las velas partío el bergantín…

is incorrectly translated:

In the midst of the tobacco smoke
the old man goes to the distant, foggy
country, to a hot, golden afternoon where
the brigand quickly departs from the watch"

This makes no reference to a "brigand" nor a "watch". "las velas" are the sails of "bergantín" or Brigantine, a 17th and 18th century sailing ship. A more correct translation would be:

In the midst of the tobacco smoke
the old man sees the distant, misty country
to which, one hot and golden afternoon,
sails raised, the Brigantine departed.