Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Mirror-Bearer/ El portador del espejo



If a
looking
glass could
mirror this
morning it
would be
Cocibolca
sweet sea
east of Granada—
and today windless, still, and placid.
Brought low by drought, it drank
a seasonful of rain
and once again is fat
and sleek as an owl in
a hundred shades of gray.
Across to the other shore
stared back the mountains of Boaco and Chontales.
Above, His Royal Highness Sky and below and at his feet,
loyal servitor seconding every glance, the Mirror-Bearer Lake.

E. A. Costa

El Portador del Espejo

Si un
espejo
pudiera
reflejar esta
mañana él
sería Coci-
bolca, mar
dulce al
este de Granada--
y hoy sin viento, inmóvil, y plácido.
Caído bajo por la sequía, ha bebido una temporada
de lluvia y de nuevo es
gordo y luminoso como
un buho de cien matices
de color gris. Sobre el 
lago a otra orilla se 
quedan mirando las montañas de Boaco y Chontales. Arriba
 estaban Su Alteza Real El Cielo y abajo a sus pies el servidor leal que
secunda cada mirada lanzada, el Portador del Espejo El Lago.

Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa        November 5, 2016        Granada, Nicaragua
_____________________________________________________________
N.B.: (1) Cocibolca is the local name for Lake Nicaragua, also known as Lake Granada, meaning in Nahuatl, “the sweet sea” (el mar dulce) where the “sweet” denotes fresh water as opposed to salt. (2) The Mirror-Bearer is the Mayan factotum that carried a mirror for the Prince or King to gaze into. Often a dwarf or a small carved figure, as here:


from a Wall Street Journal Article available here:


Mirrors, of metal, ore, polished obsidian and such are a distinctive and transcultural artifact of Meso-American cultures. Though probably used at times for cosmetics, the principal use for mirrors was religious and spiritual and was shared by many of the tribes in the area, including both Aztecs and Mayas, from Mexico in the North to Guatemala and further south where Maya also reached. The mirror was considered a channel to a spiritual realm that could not otherwise be seen, and perhaps also with properties of an amulet. Warriors, for example, wore mirrors on the small of the back. Mirrors were also identified with water and with the sun. In many carvings eyes are inset mirrors as are pools of water. A rare surviving wood carving of a Mayan Mirror-Bearer is available here:


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Emily Dickinson: The Sky Is Low--The Clouds Are Mean... / El Cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes...


The Sky is low — the Clouds are mean.
A Travelling Flake of Snow
Across a Barn or through a Rut
Debates if it will go —

A Narrow Wind complains all Day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like Us is sometimes caught
Without her Diadem.


Emily Dickinson



El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes... 

El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes.
Un copo viajante de nieve considera
si a través del granero o por una rodera
se irá.

Todo el díá se queja el viento estrecho
sobre cómo por alguien era maltratado.
Como nosotros, no coronada se puede atrapar
Natura.

Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa October 30, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua
______________________________________________________________
N. B.: This poem (1075) of Dickinson is, on the one hand, a close to perfect illustration of John Ruskin's pathetic fallacy—and that surely intentionally--and, on the other, a subtle and ironic reversal of it, then itself reversed. In his Modern Painters, a book Dickinson much admired, Ruskin defined the so-called fallacy (here meaning falseness) thus: “All violent feelings...produce impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as 'The Pathetic Fallacy'.” Here Dickinson plays with the idea, with among other things masterly ambiguity, where a “low” sky and “mean” clouds can be perfectly and scientifically descriptive, while even the howl of the wind may sound querulous. Anyone who has lived in New England for any time will recognize just such mean and low days, especially in late Fall or early Spring, in which even the wind seems to have something to complain about. Importantly, Ruskin did not discountenance the use of the pathetic fallacy, as long as it was not false, that is, did not falsely attribute to nature attributes that were genuinely the subjective effect of pathos in the observer. Dickinson here expands the figure not to something violently pathetic, but to the observation that both human beings and nature have undiademed days, ordinary and mean, when they are not at their best. The clincher here is the snowflake, potentially a more than ordinary or mean image, especially being singular, which cannot make up its mind which way to go off, thus mirroring the Ruskin's “web of hesitant sentiment, pathetic fallacy, and wandering fancy”, alloyed with “all manner of purposeful play and conceit” (also in Modern Painters)--which is almost an exact description of Dickinson, at work and play and feeling in and on this poem. To say that the poem is ironic and playful, which clearly it is, is not to discount seriousness and sadness--here with Dickinson herself, in one role at least, as the snowflake, and also solitary and unwed, thus balancing against one another the two necessary levels of all irony, surface and underlying meaning.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Silence (to Álvaro Urtecho)/ Silencio (a Álvaro Urtecho)


Silence

                    To Álvaro Urtecho*

The whisperer:
who speaks low,
who murmurs mute,
whose haunting breath rustles
in the syrinx of the blackest cave,
the one whose curving fingers
create space and murder time.

E. A. Costa


Silencio
                 a Álvaro Urtecho*

El susurrador
quien habla bajo,
quien murmura mudo,
cuyo aliento cruje en la siringa
y embruja la cueva más negra,
él cuyos dedos en curva
crean el espacio y asesinan el tiempo.  

Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa     October 27, 2016    Granada, Nicaragua
_____________________________________________________
N.B.: *Álvaro Urtecho (1951-2007), poeta  nicaragüense

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unutterance/ Inelocución


To the left
on a wooden table
the computer screen
white with what was
an hour or so ago
blank page.

To the right
an open patio
of tropic night
before the rain
with clouds
quivering
in small
bursts of lightning
and low warning
snarls of thunder.

The light flickers
like butterflies
or fluttering
flowers of milk.

The sound rolls on
and there is no sense.

E. A. Costa


Inelocución

A la izquierda
sobre una mesa
de madera la pantalla
blanca del ordenador
con lo que era
hace una hora o más
una página en blanco.

A la derecha
un patio frente
a la noche trópica
antes de la lluvia
con nubes que tiemblan
en ráfagas pequeñas
de relámpago
y gruñidos de aviso
de truenos.

La luz parpadea
como mariposas
o flores de leche
que revolotean.

El sonido sigue rodando
y no hay ningún sentido.

Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa October 27, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Théophile Gautier: Sérénade/ Serenade/ Serenata


Sur le balcon où tu te penches
Je veux monter... efforts perdus!
Il est trop haut, et tes mains blanches
N'atteignent pas mes bras tendus.

Pour déjouer ta duègne avare,
Jette un collier, un ruban d'or ;
Ou des cordes de ta guitare
Tresse une échelle, ou bien encor...

Ôte tes fleurs, défais ton peigne,
Penche sur moi tes cheveux longs,
Torrent de jais dont le flot baigne
Ta jambe ronde et tes talons.

Aidé par cette échelle étrange,
Légèrement je gravirai,
Et jusqu'au ciel, sans être un ange,
Dans les parfums je monterai!



Théophile Gautier



Serenade 

I want to scale the balcony
over which you lean—a waste of energy!
It is too high and your candent hands
won't reach my outstretched arms.

Thwart your stingy chaperone
and throw me your necklace,
a golden yellow ribbon,
or from guitar strings
plait a ladder, or once more...

Release the flowers from your hair,
undo your comb and send down upon me
the long jet-black tresses whose waterfall
cascades over shapely legs and heels.

By such droll aid ascending
I'll waft up airily and, with no need
to be angelic, will mount right up
to heaven in your scent.

Tr. EAC


Serenata

Al balcón sobre que te estás inclinando
quiero subir—¡Esfuerzo en vano!
Es demasiado alto, y tus manos cándidas
no pueden alcanzar mis brazos levantados.

Para desbaratar a tu dueña avara,
échame un collar, una cinta de oro;
o con las cuerdas de tu guitarra
trenza una escalera de nudos, o otra vez...

Quita las flores, deshaz el peine,
y sobre mí deja caer tu melena,
cuya cascada azabache baña
tus piernas torneadas y talones.

Por esta escala extraña,
ligeramente subiré,
y sin ser un ángel, hasta el cielo
ascenderé en tu perfume!


Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa October 25, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua
_______________________________________________
N.B.: The poem is from Gautier's España and is many-layered, with
a hint of the ingenuity of the poets and troupadours of  Provençal 
applied to the Spanish serenade. The first hint of even deeper drollery
are the lady's guitar strings (cordes de ta guitare) which are proper
to the serenader not the serenaded. How did they get there and 
become hers? Hasn't the serendader already passed up his
guitar?There follows the deliberate use of the archaic form
of encore in bien encor, missing an “e” followed by ellipsis.
This seems no more than the equivalent use of the English “yet again”
when enumerating, as in “still yet” and “or once more”, as if just
coming up with a new idea to try out. But here also may be hidden
an “again” that suggests, with upstairs guitar strings, this is not
the first time. The last part is obvious: the serenader reaching his
“heaven”is no angel—nor perhaps the serenaded.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Francis Saltus Saltus: The Sphinx Speaks/ La Espinge habla


Carved by a mighty race whose vanished hands

Formed empires more destructible than I,
In sultry silence I forever lie,

Wrapped in the shifting garment of the sands.

Below me, Pharaoh’s scintillating bands

With clashings of loud cymbals have passed by,

And the eternal reverence of the sky

Falls royally on me and all my lands.

The record of the future broods in me;

I have with worlds of blazing stars been crowned,

But none my subtle mystery hath known

Save one, who made his way through blood and sea,

The Corsican, prophetic and renowned,

To whom I spake, one awful night alone!

Francis Saltus Saltus

La Esfinge habla

Tallada por una raza poderosa cuyas manos desaparecidas
formaron imperios más efímeros que yo,

voluptuosa me agacho aquí por siempre y en silencio,
abrigada en el manto movedizo de las arenas.

Abajo han desfilado las bandas centelleantes del Faraón
al sonido de címbalos ruidosos,

y la reverencia eterna del cielo cae sobre mí
como reina y sobre todas estas tierras.

La crónica del porvenir se incuba en mí,
con mundos de astros ardientes he sido coronada,
pero nadie ha conocido mi misterio sutil salvo uno,

que vino acá por mar y sangre--el corso renombrado
y profético con quien una noche espantosa a solas hablé.

Tr. EAC

E. A. Costa    October 24, 2016    Granada, Nicaragua

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Plinio el Viejo: ¡Ave! de un ave: "¡Salve--hipo--César!"


Super omnia humanas voces reddunt, psittaci quidem etiam sermocinantes. india hanc avem mittit, siptacen vocat, viridem toto corpore, torque tantum miniato in cervice distinctam. imperatores salutatet et quae accipit verba pronuntiat, in vino praecipue lasciva. 

Gaius Plinius Secundus

"Pero por encima de todo, hay algunos pájaros que pueden imitar la voz humana--el loro, por ejemplo, que aún puede conversar. India nos envía este pájaro, llamado sittaces. El cuerpo es verde por todas las partes, marcado con un toque de rojo alrededor del cuello. Este pájaro saludará a un emperador, y pronunciará las palabras habladas que ha oído. Se hace especialmente juguetón bajo la influencia de vino. "

Plinio el Viejo (tr. EAC)