Poetry in Baltimore

Your Laughter (Pablo Neruda)

Offline BardmasterUB05

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Your Laughter (Pablo Neruda)
« on: January 30, 2007, 11:14:56 AM »
Your Laughter

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

Pablo Neruda

Offline julie

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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2007, 10:09:58 PM »
I've only read a smattering of Neruda but I really like his work. I enjoy his passion, his expression of the natural world and the overall affect for me is that he can step away from his soley human perceptions and appreciate the world or observe suffering from the stand point of a sentinet being. Or at least thats the comparison I've come up with first thing in the morning before any liquid stimulants.

Offline BardmasterUB05

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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2007, 07:32:55 PM »
Your Laughter just touches right at the soul, with its simple message, though very profound.

Julie, I'am reading Ilan Stavans' The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, 2003, a huge, and marvelous collection, containing over 600 of his works, beginning with his earliest poems, and others up to his death.

What a collection of translations by: Merwin, Walsh, Schmitt, Maloney, Reid, Nolan, Strand, and many others. It's been said that Neruda has been read as much as Shakespeare, and talk about a live reading, he holds the record twice for reading before a live audience.

Neruda's work touches nearly every major event of the last century, and in many ways he outlived the dreadful Pinochet. I'll be in heaven the next week or so reading this collection... :)


Offline theirishsea

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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2007, 11:38:54 PM »
Neruda is an excellent poet (that's an understatement).  And there are so many good translations out here.

For awhile I was perplexed because I had only Ben Belitt translations. I don't think he did Neruda any favors in his translations. For instance here is the beginning of a selection from  Oda Al Elefante (Elephant):

Gross innocent,
Saint Elephant,
blessed beast
of the perduring forests,
bulk of our palpable world
in its counterpoise,
and exquisite,
a saddlery's cosmos
in leather....

This is not Neruda. In good translations, like in Bardmaster's entry here of "Your Laughter", Neruda speaks directly in comparatively simple direct but image and metaphor rich language. I don't know what to make of Belitt's versions. It attempts to be erudite, I guess, but it is pretentious perhaps, and definitely is not Neruda's voice. "perduring" is not a good word here, and "palpable", though a little less strained, is too tongue-tying in the context to produce the effect desired.

I'm putting the Spanish for people who can read Spanish and judge the original of the Neruda poem against the Ben Belitt version.

Espesa bestia pura,
San Elefante,
animal santo
del bosque sempiterno,
todo materia fuerte
y equilibrada,
talabarteria planetaria......

Bardmasater, do you have a translation of the Ode to the Elephant in your anthology. If you do, I'd be interested in seeing what another translator makes of these lines.

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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2007, 12:31:13 AM »
wow, I might just like Neruda as per Belitt.

Offline BardmasterUB05

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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2007, 06:07:56 AM »
Irish, for some reason Ode to the Elephant isn't in this volume, though I did find a Ilan Stevans' version at Ploughshares. A large section of the book is devoted to his Odes, and I can't wait to read them.

Ode to the Elephant
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Ilan Stavans
translated from the Spanish by Ilan Stavans


Thick, pristine beast,
Saint Elephant,
sacred animal
of perennial forests,
sheer strength,
and balanced
of global saddle-makers,
satin-finished ivory,
like the moon’s flesh,
with minuscule eyes
to see—and not be seen—
and a singing trunk,
a blowing horn,
hose of the creature
rejoicing in its own freshness,
shaking machine
and forest telephone,
this is how
the elephant passes by,
parading his ancient façade,
his costume
made of
wrinkled trees,
his pants
falling down,
and his teeny tail.


Make no mistake:
this gentle, huge jungle beast
is not a clown
but a father,
a priest of green light,
an earthly progenitor,
and whole.


in its tantalizing avarice,
made of skin and fornication,
the elephant kingdom
grew accustomed to the rain.
But then came
a universal war,
with salt and blood.


The scaly forms
of lizard-lion,
magisterial Cyclops
fell away,
fresh ferment on the marsh,
a treasure
for torrid flies
and cruel beetles.
The elephant awakened
from its dethroned fear,
but almost vegetative,
a dark tower
in the olive firmament, his lineage
nurtured by sweet leaves,
and rock water.


Thus he wandered through the forest,
in weighty peace,
sensitive to the humidity of the universe,
with the clearest commands of the dew,
enormous, sad and tender,
until they found him
and turned him into a circus beast,
wrapped in human smells,
unable to breathe through his restless trunk,
without earth for his earthly feet.
I saw him coming in that day.
I remember his agony.


I saw the damned creature entering the Kraal,
in the jungle of Ceylon.
Drums and fire
had changed his path of dew,
and he was surrounded.
Like an immense king
he arrived,
caught between howl and silence.
He understood nothing.
His kingdom was a prison,
yet the sun was still the sun,
palpitating free light,
and the world was still verdant.
Slowly, the elephant touched the stockade
and chose me from everyone else.
I don’t know why. Maybe it wasn’t so,
could not have been,
but he looked at me
between the stakes
with his secret eyes.
His eyes
still pain me,
a prisoner’s eyes,
the immense king captive in his own jungle.


That’s why I invoke your gaze today,
lost between the hard stakes
and the leaves.
In your honor, pristine beast,
I lift the collar
of my ode
so you may walk through the world again.
My unfaithful poetry
was unable to defend you then.
Now I bring you back
through memory,
along with the stockade caging
your animal honor,
measured only by your height,
and those gentle eyes,
deprived forever of all they had once loved.

Copyright © Pablo Neruda Ilan Stavans

Offline theirishsea

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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2007, 10:18:13 AM »
"Ode To The Elephant" is also an excellent poem.

I tempted to type Belitt's translation just to show how different, though the same, a poem sounds. Belitt for some reason doesn't include the last 3 stanzas. I like parts of both translations. I wish I could read Spanish & get the 3 dimensional feel of the original. Translations are like photographs---two dimensional----though both translations capture some of the super poetry.

Maybe I'll post Belitt's full translation tomorrow.

Offline BardmasterUB05

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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2007, 12:28:03 AM »
Here's another Neruda gem, about the aftermath of war. Translation by Donald D. Walsh:


The Destroyed Street

Through the insulted iron, through the plaster eyes
passes a tongue of years different
from time. It is a tail
of harsh hairs, hands of stone filled with anger,
and the color of the houses is hushed, and architectural
decisions burst forth,
a terrible foot dirties the balconies:
slowly, with accumulated shadow,
with masks bitten by winter and slowness,
the lofty-browed days walk about
among moonless houses.

Water and custom and the white mud
that the star emits, and especially
the air that the bells have struck furiously,
exhaust things, tough
the wheels, stop
in cigar stores,
and the red hair grows in the cornices
like a long lament, while down to the depths
fall keys, clocks
flowers resembling oblivion.

Where is the newborn violet? Where
the necktie and the virginal red zephyr?
Over the towns
a tongue of rotted dust advances,
breaking rings, gnawing painting,
making the black chairs howl voiceless,
covering the cement rosettes, the bulwarks
of shattered metal,
the garden and the wool, the enlargements of ardent photographs
wounded by the rain, the thirst of the bedrooms, and the huge
movie posters on which struggle
the panther and the thunder,
the geranium's lances, the stores filled with spoiled honey,
the cough, the suits of shiny weave,
everything is covered with a mortal taste
of retreat and dampness and injury.

Perhaps the stifled conversations, the rustle of bodies,
the virtue of the weary ladies who nest in the smoke,
the tomatoes implacably assassinated,
the passage of the sad horses of a sad regiment,
the light, the pressure of many nameless fingers
use up the flat fiber of the lime,
surround the facades with neutral air
like knives: while
the air of danger gnaws at circimstances,
bricks, salt, spills like water
and the fat-axled wagons lurch.

Wave of broken roses and holes! future
of the fragrant vein! Pitiless objects!
Let nobody wander about! Let nobody open up his arms
within the blind water!
Oh movement, oh ill-wounded name,
oh spoonful of confused wind
and flogged color! Oh woundinto which fall
to their deaths the blue guitars!

Pablo Neruda, written probably around 1945?
Translated: Donald D Walsh