The OF Blog: Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Rimas

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Rimas

For the fortunate few, here's a little something from a book of poems from one of Spain's 19th century Romantic poets:


Yo sé un himno gigante y extraño
que anuncia en la noche del alma una aurora,
y estas páginas son de ese himno
cadencias que el aire dilata en las sombras.

Yo quisiera escribirle, del hombre
domando el rebelde, mezquino idioma
con palabras que fuesen a un tiempo
suspiros y risas, colores y notas.

Pero en vano es luchar, que no hay cifra
capaz de encerrarle; y apenas, ¡oh, hermosa!
si, teniendo en mis manos las tuyas,
pudiera, al oído, cantártelo a solas.

There's just something about the tone in which Bécquer hints at this "known giant hymn" that he cannot describe adequately in words, that reminds me of some of the themes behind of the most moving works of the speculative. Those searches for Shakespeare's "undiscovered country" or for that vista which lies just beneath the horizon; that's what seems to lie at the heart of many of Bécquer's Rimas. Just a little something that I thought I'd share before I go to bed, to rest for another day at a job that I already know will bring many surprises each and every day. And since I guess the monolinguals here will want a rough translation, here is one I did of this poem two years ago:

I know a hymn gigantic and strange
which announces in the soul's night a dawn,
and these pages are of that hymn
cadences which the air dilates in the shadows.

I wanted to write of it, of the man
taming the rebellious paltry idiom
with words that were at the same time
sighs and laughter, colors and notes.

But it is in vain to fight; there is not a number
capable of enclosing it, and scarely, oh beautiful!
if having in my hands yours
could, hearing, sing it to you alone.

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