Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Last verse

What now? It is not practical I know.

To cast a loaded dice for one more throw.

No, no; a beautiful, a hopeless stand

What is this horde? I shall not stay my hand.

I know you now, old foes, old enemies!

Dissembling, Prejudice and Treacheries!

Deception! Here's my sword's point, ask no truce.

I fight and will die fighting. No excuse.

Take what you will, you send me to repose.

Take all; the prize, the laurel and the rose.

You've done your worst and yet I still retain,

Respect you cannot strip me of or stain.

And when I leave tonight to meet my Lord

If heaven's azure vault's not my reward.

And all I left behind on earth was ash

Despite you all I kept, and keep still my .... panache!

What with one thing and another, I've been quoting my own version of Cyrano de Bergerac to myself lately. Rendering José Martí's Cuba Nos Une into English on Sunday reminded me that I have found the way I compile these translations quite educational, so I thought I would share it.

Cuba nos une en extranjero suelo,

Auras de Cuba nuestro amor desea:

Cuba es tu corazón, Cuba es mi cielo,

Cuba en tu libro mi palabra sea.


Cuba unite us, on foreign soil

Cuba the heartbeat, let love uncoil

Cuba your centre, Cuba my sky

Cuba in your book, my word, my sigh

I got a plain vanilla literal English version from Google Translate, then tried to polish it up. What is interesting I think, at least it is to me, is that I went from an alternating line rhyming scheme to couplets and from a freer to a strict nine syllable (five then four) metre without consciously deciding to do it all. Not unlike Cyrano's last words which morphed from the original twelve syllable alexandrine to pentameter. Perhaps it is to do with being steeped in, rather than educated about, English poetry?

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