3 Translations and commentary


My original intention was to do 9 translations of Caldas Barbosa, Obeso, and Lanusse, but in doing the work, I realized that was unrealistic, especially when also doing creative writing and writing commentary.  To that end, I adjusted the assignment to be 3 translations, talk about the process of translating, and then make the association between the poems that I chose and the work I am doing.

Caldas Barbosa was the son of a Portuguese man and a liberated Angolan woman in Brazil.  As I could not find the book that Brenda Marie Osbey recommends, Cantiga, Modinha e Lundu, through the university system.  To that end, I found a sampling of poems online, link given below.  I chose to translate one poem that can easily connect to the experience of the first victim of one of the primary characters, Iset.  In the story I am creating, he is the one that began the chain of events that led to her creation as an immortal being.  It was through his attempted rape of Iset, the slaughter of her people, the kidnapping of several women and a young girl, that the spirits rose and possessed her body.  I imagine, that to him, he saw the events as an unfortunate consequence of his romantic love, his adoration of a young and beautiful girl who should have immediately leapt to serve him.  Even in his dying, he sees the aching romanticism of the moment, not the righteous revenge being taken.  These are poems that I haven’t written as yet, but the story was already referenced in passing in the background narrative that I am writing to inform the poetic work, which I am using to make sure that I keep some of the facts within the world I am creating consistent.  
As for the translating of this text, it was DIFFICULT.  I attempted to keep some of the end rhyme, though it was beyond my skill to mirror the rhythm or line length from one language to another.  I started with using my very slim recollection of Portuguese, though I found myself dependent on my background knowledge of Spanish in all of the translations.  I then used a Kindle Portuguese dictionary to identify unfamiliar words.  I then used Google Translate for unfamiliar words and to confirm that I was getting the relationship of words correct.  I was interested in seeing that typing in a word to Google Translate does give a number of translations and synonyms.  I also used Google for synonyms for words so that I could preserve the end rhyme.  Oh, the joys of technology!  Happily, I found that my initial impressions were generally correct.  Words like poignant and suspicions were some with which I was unfamiliar.  


Quick lesson for myself:  do not translate when the computer is not at eye level.  Sitting on the couch and translating induces pained back and neck when going from the original text to the translation I’m working on to the dictionaries.  



Domingos Caldas Barbosa

Vou Morrendo Devagar

I know that you enjoy
killing me,
I die, and by this, I wet your appetite,
I will slowly die:

I like to die for you.
You like to see me expire.
As this is like death,
I will slowly die.

Love united us in life,
In death, we will be tied;
In order to see you die, I
I will slowly die.

Losing life is losing you;
I have to hie;
As I miss you, dying,
I will slowly die.

Poison of jealousy,
Already begins to earth-drive;
Among the poignant suspicions
I will slowly die.

No longer will I silent veins
to please your poison;
And delighting, I die
I will slowly die:

When I do not see your eyes,
I feel as if to expire;
Sustained hopes,
I will slowly die:

Jealousies and saudades 
Cruel death, come to me;
I am dying in pieces,
I will slowly die.

It is happy to be among the disgraced,
who soon may know their demise;
I, being the most wretched,
I will slowly die:

Death, after all, come arrest me,
Since I cannot take flight;
But covered in your name,
I will slowly die.


Born in 1849, Candelario Obeso was definitely a genius, well-loved through very poor.  He translated famous authors like Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Hugo into Spanish.  I only did a small translation of his work, but he definitely merits intensive study.  The next translation I did with no need for Google Translate at all, though I did use Google for some synonyms.   The Collins Dictionary, which I have been carrying for 15 years, came in handy yet again as my quick computer dictionary did not have some of the more erudite words, like stand-offish.  I was really interested in this use of the poem as direct address to God in relationship to science and progress.  I just wrote a poem a few days ago that has one of the characters directly addressing stone carvings of gods, the forgotten statues in a salvage yard.  In that poem, the character is fascinating, wild in her dance and wonder.  As an elder, she maintains a childish way of seeing.  I’m interested, too, in how Obeso uses the bracket.  I’m not sure if this is a factor of the translation and the page.  I would imagine that is the case and the bracket is actually a mark to indicate the the line continues rather than breaking because of the width of the page.  Still, that usage creates some interesting possibilities for the use of bracket as opening to a connection to the divine, a conversation that continues into the space beyond the page.  I’m not sure how to integrate this idea into my own work.


Candelario Obeso 
“Invocación” from Obeso, Candelario. Cantos Populares De Mi Tierra. Bogotá: Ministerio De Educación Nacional, 1950. Print.
p. 93-94


¡Oh God of mercy!  Enlighten my mind a
                                                                   [moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
To each planet from your invisible Being descends
an impalpable ray – goodness, greatness,
                                                                     [love.

Eternal that ray is the focus of mysterious light,
The fruitful fount of what always is said to emanate.
¡Happy the one that walks lit by God in the world,
not whipped by the terrible, searing storm.

This is what I want to sing.  Between the applauses, the century’s genius
curses your name.  And another tower of Babel begins.
¡Oh!  Never in the heavens will it touch the proud head;
It leaves not doubt, rather a sad, barren pain.

¡What haughty and ignorant pride with sage smoke
that insults your glory and the nothing here below
                                                                   [stand-offish?
Denied, he toils; but only to know the reach always
that the effort is in vain that attempts to sweep you up in
                                                                   [his accion.

The so fertile field to offered science returns
without you in a desert.  Only the man never
                                                                   [progressed;

In vain he shouts and endeavors in his sterile
                                                                   [pride
Breaking your altars and erasing your name among farces.

¡Oh God of mercy!  Enlighten my mind a
                                                                   [moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
Give to the world the prestigious sight of your ineffable Being,
And achieve, under your protection, thrust your nascent
                                                                   [splendor.

Your divine breath dissipates the ominous storm;
Do not leave this century to its blindness and terrible ambition.
Progress, hopes … everything ¡ay! All of the new
                                                                   [in the nothingness,
If you do not avoid, it will return to bury us ¡What horror!

Mi lyre divulges that the triumphs that some
                                                                   [receive;
Their ancient greatness false and the lie of illusion;
Here they vegetate.  More what they reach for?  Only
                                                                   [shadows;
Never managing to lift themselves up from the dust.

It is an inviolable law.  Those that you, in your wisdom chose,
If at the weight they succumb to your noble and excelling mission,
They will be like the lost ship in the tempestuous sea,
It is a birth that falles in the waves from the winging north.
¡Happy he that is pious and obedient to your law as shown
                                                                   And the fool does not affir,
That the gas and the phosphorus brighten more than your eternal
                                                                   [blaze …

The last poem that I chose because I had read about placing of women, Black women who were given as concubines to men of French descent.  Though they were often abandoned by their lovers, their children might have access to education and more, if given such an opportunity by their lovers.  It’s a twisted story of access through self-denial and submission.  I wanted to do my own translation, particularly since this idea of mother stewardship of a daughter is so key to the narrative behind the poems.  I’m still also working out the intricacies of the spiritual world relationship and the relationship with the natural world that informs the characters’ compasses.

Armand Lanusse
“Épigramme” p. 47 of Lanusse, Armand, ed. Les Cenelles: Choix De Poésies Indigènes. Shreveport: Les Cahiers Du Tintamarre, Centenary College of Louisiana, 2003. Print.

You do not want to renounce Satan,
Said the good shepherd to a certain bigot
who came with such big sins every new year
to relate to him with endless notes.

I want to renounce, she said, for ever;
But before the grace of my sparkling soul,
Renounces all the reasons to sin henceforth,
Can I not, pastor?  What?  Place my daughter.






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