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


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)


                    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

                 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.  


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
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


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.


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


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.



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!


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.


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) 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ugo Foscolo: Alla Sera/ To Evening/ Al atardecer

Forse perchè della fatal quïete
Tu sei l’immago a me sì cara, vieni,
O Sera! E quando ti corteggian liete
Le nubi estive e i zeffiri sereni,

E quando dal nevoso aere inquiete
Tenebre, e lunghe, all’universo meni,
Sempre scendi invocata, e le secrete
Vie del mio cor soavemente tieni.

Vagar mi fai co’ miei pensier su l’orme
Che vanno al nulla eterno; e intanto fugge
Questo reo tempo, e van con lui le torme

Delle cure, onde meco egli si strugge;
E mentre io guardo la tua pace, dorme
Quello spirto guerrier ch’entro mi rugge.

Ugo Foscolo

To Evening

Perhaps exactly because you are the very mask
of deathly stillness, you come to me so beloved, oh Night!--
with a cortege of gleeful clouds and complacent summer breezes,

Or from snow-cold air you lead shadows long
and roiled into the cosmos, descend ever prayed for
and softly take hold of the secret ways of my heart.

You make me wander with my thoughts over trails
that lead into the eternal void and while
flees this evildoer Time and with him his throng

Of cares, by which he along with me is worn away,
as I gaze upon your peace and soundly sleeps
the warring spirit that within me roars.


Al atardecer

Tal vez porque eres la imagen
de quietud fatal, a mí vienes tan querida,
¡O Noche!--cuando te acompañan alegres
nubes estivales y céfiros ligeros.

O cuando por el aire nevoso tinieblas
agitadas y largas al universo tú conduces,
y descendiendo siempre invocada, capturas
suavemente las vías secretas de mi corazón.

Me haces vagar con mis pensamientos sobre las pistas
que desembocan en el vacio eterno y mientras que huye
este tiempo malvado y con él los tormentos

De mis pesares, por los que él conmigo es destruido
cuando contemplo tu paz y se adormece
aquel espíritu guerrero que ruge dentro de mí.


E. A. Costa    October 21, 2016     Granada, Nicaragua

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

La nueva antipoesía/ The New Antipoetry

Escríbelo sobre los muros
cuando él muere:

Si Nicanor Parra es el antipoeta,
Hugo Chávez es el antipinochet.

E. A. Costa

The New Antipoetry

Write it on the walls
when he dies:

If Nicanor Parra is the antipoet,
Hugo Chávez is the antipinochet.


E. A. Costa           el 3 de octubre de 2016           Granada, Nicaragua

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ananke/ Ananké

                          πάντας δ᾽ ἐπαίνημι καὶ φιλέω
                          ἑκὼν ὅστις ἕρδῃ
                          μηδὲν αἰσχρόν: ἀνάγκῃ δ᾽ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.*


With Chronos I merge 

through the fissure in nothing,

each of us a serpent, the two intertwined,

binding taut the egg of our emergence,

right-angled at every intersection.

he the line of time,

I the necklace of constriction.

Winged and feathered but no bird,

I am unsubject to my own compulsion,

nor am I content nor uncontent,

I am simply there forever and no farther,

coiled round the curving vector of his unfolding,

for there is no holding beyond him save me

and no being held within me save he.

What is let loose, is let loose, what is bound, bound.

What will be is, what was is—his the slow flowing

and mine the fast constraint....

E. A. Costa


                               πάντας δ᾽ ἐπαίνημι καὶ φιλέω
                               ἑκὼν ὅστις ἕρδῃ
                               μηδὲν αἰσχρόν: ἀνάγκῃ δ᾽ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.*


Con Crono me fusiono

por la grieta en nada,

nosotros dos serpientes,

los dos entrelazados,

que aferran el huevo de nuestra aparición,

rectángulos en cada intersección,

él la línea de mi tiempo,

y yo el collar de su constricción.

Alada y plumosa pero ningún pájaro,

soy inmune a mi propia compulsión.

Ni contenta ni descontenta,

estoy simplemente allí y no más allá,

enrollar el vector encorvado de su desdoblamiento,

porque nada existe allá de él salvo mí

y nada se sostiene dentro de mí salvo él.

Lo que es soltado es soltado, lo que es atado es atado.

Lo que será es, lo que era es – el suyo es el corriente lento,

la mía la coacción tenaz....


E. A. Costa       October 18,        Granada, Nicaragua 
N.B.: *“I praise and consider as friends all who do no shameful thing willingly,
but even the gods do not struggle against Ananke.”/ "Elogio a todos y soy amigo
de todos que no hacen nada de deshonroso de buen grado, pero aún los dioses no
luchan contra Ananké.” (quotation of Simonides by Plato) Ananke—in Greek
Ἀνάγκη, in Latin Necessitas--is the goddess of necessity, force or compulsion,
in English sometimes also spelled as Anance, or Anagke, the latter an accurate
transliteration but misleading, since in Greek gamma before kappa is pronounced
as nu. The Spanish version is Ananké or Ananque, though Rubén Darío in one of 
the poems of Azul used the transliterated version, Anagke. Chronos--Χρόνος—is
Chronos protogonos, not the Titan Kronus (Κρόνος), father of Zeus. Ananke, the
daughter of Chronos, merges with Chronos in pre-universal Chaos, to produce the
Cosmos or Cosmic Egg.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sara Teasdale: There Will Come Soft Rains/ Vendrán lluvias suaves

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. 
Sara Teasdale 

Vendrán lluvias suaves

Vendrán lluvias suaves y el olor del suelo

y golondrinas sobrevolando con sonido tembloroso,

y ranas en remansos de la noche cantando,

y ciruelos en blancura trémula;

Los petirrojos vestirán su fuego plumoso

y silbarán caprichos en un alambre bajo de las cercas,

y nadie sabrá nada de la guerra--a ninguno

le importará cuando ella habrá acabado

y no le molestaría a nadie, ni a ningún pájaro ni a ningún árbol,

si toda la humanidad fuera eliminada.

Y la mismísima Primavera, cuando ella amanece,

apenas va a saber que hemos desaparecido.

tr. EAC

E. A. Costa      October 12, 2016   Granada, Nicaragua 
N.B.:(1)”Robins.../Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire”: it
is a serious error to see this as a matter of completing the fire/wire
rhyme in English--there is a masterstroke of hidden metaphor and
imagery here, widely unseen, in the image of a robin as a G or treble
clef on a musical staff--thus the “low wire”--and perhaps, more hidden,
robins too as notes on the same staff; (2) Since Spring  obviously still
exists abstractly for the poet, though asleep, one has moved the tense 
of the line into what is perhaps an even more dramatic and indicative

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pablo Neruda: El perezoso/ The Layabout

Continuarán viajando cosas
de metal entre las estrellas,
subirán hombres extenuados,
violentarán la suave luna
y allí fundarán sus farmacias.

En este tiempo de uva llena
el vino comienza su vida
entre el mar y las cordilleras.

En Chile bailan las cerezas,
cantan las muchachas oscuras
y en las guitarras brilla el agua.

El sol toca todas las puertas
y hace milagros con el trigo.

El primer vino es rosado,
es dulce como un niño tierno,
el segundo vino es robusto
como la voz de un marinero
y el tercer vino es un topacio,
una amapola y un incendio.

Mi casa tiene mar y tierra,
mi mujer tiene grandes ojos
color de avellana silvestre,
cuando viene la noche el mar
se viste de blanco y de verde
y luego la luna en la espuma
sueña como novia marina.

No quiero cambiar de planeta.

Pablo Neruda 

The Layabout

These metal thingamajigs will
continue to voyage among the stars,
undernourished men will continue to ascend,
will violate the soft and gentle moon,
and thereon will plant their drugstores.

At this moment of grapes
full to bursting, wine is born
between sea and cordilleras.

In Chile the cherries are dancing,
dark-complexioned girls sing,
and water is glistening in guitars.

The sun knocks on every door
and works miracles with wheat.

The first wine is rosé
and it is sweet like a tender child;
the second is robust,
like a sailor's chest register,
and the third is topaz,
poppy and wildfire.

My house is replete with sea and earth,
my woman has the grandest eyes,
the color of wild hazelnut,
and when night arrives the sea
dresses in white and green
and then the moon in the foam
dreams as if my mermaid bride.

I haven't the slightest desire to change planets.

tr. EAC

E. A. Costa          October 7,  2016        Granada,  Nicaragua
N.B.: (1)“chest register”--vox pectoris (Latin), Voz de pecho (Spanish); (2) As one has seen
no one notice, the collection in which “El perezoso” appears, Estravagario (1958), which marks
new departures of style for Neruda, has many echos of the French Libertine poet, Marc-Antoine
Girard de Sant Amant (1594 – 1661), the inventor of burlesque poetry in French. Indeed, the
title of the poem clearly refers to Girard's “Le paresseux”, in which the poet, lazy and
melancholy, cannot rise from bed, a theme which Neruda, reversing the tone, here changes to
the poet, completely content with the bed that is his earth, especially in Chile, has not the
slightest inclination to rise into space. The contemporary context is the so-called “Space Race”
between the United States and the Soviet Union, which had already seen by 1958 three satellites
put into orbit, Sputnik, Sputnik II or Muttnik by the Soviets and the anticlimactic Explorer
1 by the United States. In an excellent essay, “The Spacecraft of Pablo Neruda and W. H.
Auden,” by L. A. Cheever and D. Ketterer (Contributions to the study of science fiction
and fantasy, ed. D. Ketterer, vol. 107, 2004, pp.239-246), the authors point out that Neruda
was certainly not against space travel. He did, however, as chronicled in his autobiography,
adopt the same sardonic attitude as in this poem when in the 1960's on a visit to the USSR
he met the cosmonaut Titov. "Commander, did you see Chile when you were flying through
space, looking down on our planet?", Neruda asked. Titov answered: "The most important
thing was to have seen Chile from above, do you understand? I saw yellow mountains in
South America. They seemed to be very high. Maybe that was Chile?" Neruda replied,
"Of course, that was Chile." The obvious connection of El perezoso to Le paresseux,
of which Cheever and Ketterer are not aware, and thus the context of burlesque, helps
put Neruda's attitude in context, which is, simply, space travel yes, but a sensual earth
and Chile from the ground first and last; (3) The contrast between the United States
“drugstore” and the traditional farmacia (“pharmacy”) and apothecary's (botica)
was a subject of mirth and wonder in Spain and in most of the Spanish-speaking world
by the 1950's, and still is. By the 1920's, the U.S. “drugstore”, as also seen in U.S. films,
had become a general retail outlet with a pharmacy attached, with an almost mandatory
soda jerk and his phosphates and other drinks, and all sorts of goods ranging from tobacco
through newspapers, magazines, cosmetics, clothes, toys, and so forth. The Spanish
farmacia or botica, on the hand, dispenses mainly or exclusively prescription and
non-prescription drugs. In Latin America droguería may also be used but it is important
to note that in Spain a droguería dispenses cleaning products, paints, and so forth,
not pharmaceuticals. Eventually the US hybrid got its own Spanish word, el drugstore.
The US Explorer I was launched on January 31, 1958 and Neruda's unavoidably
burlesque play with farmacia clearly alludes to the US participation in the Space Race,
since the Soviets were not known for “drugstores.” It also confirms the connection with
Le paresseux, whose bedridden libertine simply has no time or interest in the news of
the day, which in 1957-58 through most of the world included the first steps into Outer
Space by the Soviets and later the US; (4) “en las guitarras brilla el agua” (water is
glistening in guitars): This is a supremely subtle visual metaphor, not recognized by
Cheever and Ketterer above, nor anyone else in English or Spanish one knows of. Hidden
under the surface of a figure suggesting “the guitars are playing fluidly like water”,
while cherries in the trees dance in the breeze and dark girls sing, is an image of
Chile--the long string of space between sea and cordilleras—as the neck of a guitar
pointing south with the body being the Andes to the north. The "neck" of a guitar
in Spanish is, moreover, el mastil, "pole or mast", clinching the nautical
reference. Thus el agua or the sea is marked as both the guitar's music and its string(s).
The image is obvious in any colored satellite map, not available to Neruda in 1958, 
but brilliantly intuited from the geography. This is also clearly what Neruda was getting 
at with Titov, who seems not to have got the play, but whose answer confirms 
Neruda's Chile as the neck of a guitar. Titov  indeed saw Chile from above,
but failed to see the subtle visual metaphor in his poem, which, importantly,
is a dual image of Chile from space and on the ground. The combination of
marvellous prosody fit to the brilliantly executed double visual perspective,
all in the context of revolutionary technological events in the news—and still news--
makes this particular poem one of the most striking and underestimated poems in
Neruda's corpus, which in a way Neruda himself devilishly footnotes in his
autobiography's mention of the conversation with Titov. The old science fiction
saw about the so-called Great Wall of China being visible from outer space was never
accurate. For one thing, as all scholars of China's history and geography always
knew, there is not, and never was, one “Great Wall”, nor were the different sections
“great” in size, so no parts are more visible than any other large earthly
fortifications. Here, as an added bonus, Neruda replaces that fictional Great Wall
with the great and actually visible shoestring of Chile, as much a terrestrial feature
as a space on a map. Considering the lame effort at poetic metaphor that the US
astronaut made in the first moon landing--”That's one small step for (a) man, one
giant leap for mankind.”--one might argue that Neruda's El perezoso is the first
great poem of actual, as opposed to fictional, space exploration, and not without
its own warning irony.