Poetry Wednesday – Luis de Góngora


476px-Diego_Velázquez_034(Picture from Wikipedia)

You know it’s a busy week when I miss Poetry Wednesday!  I’m glad it’s back in session, if a little late this afternoon.  I thought I would feature a poem that we recently read in class.  It’s by one of my favorite poets, Luis de Góngora.  He was a baroque poet who was a little angsty, mostly because he was forced into a life of piety as a priest that he did not want and all the other Spanish Baroque poets didn’t like him.  My text book called them his “adversaries.” Yikes!  Poor guy.  But the result of all that inner emotional turmoil was a lot of really great poetry, so I don’t feel too bad.  😉

First in Spanish:

Soneto LCXVI

Mientras por competir con tu cabello,
oro bruñido al sol relumbra en vano;
mientras con menosprecio en medio el llano
mira tu blanca frente el lilio bello;

mientras a cada labio, por cogello.
siguen más ojos que al clavel temprano;
y mientras triunfa con desdén lozano
del luciente cristal tu gentil cuello:

goza cuello, cabello, labio y frente,
antes que lo que fue en tu edad dorada
oro, lilio, clavel, cristal luciente,

no sólo en plata o vïola troncada
se vuelva, mas tú y ello juntamente
en tierra, en humo, en polvo, en sombra, en nada.


Sonnet LCXVI

While trying with your tresses to compete
in vain the sun’s rays shine on burnished gold;
while with abundant scorn across the plain
does your white brow the lily’s hue behold;

while to each of your lips, to catch and keep,
are drawn more eyes than to carnations bright;
and while with graceful scorn your lovely throat
transparently still bests all crystal’s light,

take your delight in throat, locks, lips, and brow,
before what in your golden years was gold,
carnation, lily, crystal luminous,

not just to silver or limp violets
will turn, but you and all of it as well
to earth, decay, dust, gloom, and nothingness.

So I think it sounds better in Spanish, but I am totally impressed by this translator for (mostly) making it fit the requirements for a sonnet.  I just love all of the imagery in this poem, but I think the English translation of it makes it sound a little cheesy, which it definitely isn’t.  It’s a really difficult poem to translate, because none of the words are in the right order in Spanish, a technique that Góngora was very fond of.  Mostly to confuse his poet-adversary “friends.”

3 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday – Luis de Góngora

  1. Hello, I’m curious to know if you have the translation of the sonnet A Cordoba in English. Untill now I just found the first part of it.

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