Translating – another version of paradox

from Edwin Honig’s introduction to his collection of interviews The Poet’s Other Voice: Conversations on Literary Translations:

Is translation as self-transcendence still another version of the paradox: to know yourself, lose yourself in the other other? If voice is the instrument making it possible for poets to continue writing by giving immediacy and validity to whatever gifts they possess, it also exists in the constant collaboration between the language of the living and the language of the dead. Poets come to know that voice is both one’s own and not one’s own. As Antonio Machado observes, the poet, perceiving all the unbidden echoes in his personal language, realizes that his voice is not “mine” but “ours.” He senses that it resounds, as a collaborative instrument, and that the collaborators are the literary masters of many human languages, including many he does not know, as well as the special languages of trees, waters, and illiterate grandmothers.

Machado’s advice on keeping your own voice

from Antonio Machado “Portrait”

In my passion for beauty, out of modern aesthetics
I’ve cut old-fashioned roses in gardens of Ronsard,
but I’ve felt no great love for the latest in cosmetics
nor will you find me trilling the stylish airs.

I’m not impressed by those puffed-up tenors’ ballads
or the cricket chorus crooning to the moon.
I’ve learned to tell the voices from the echoes
and of all the voices listen to only one.

Machado Last night I had a dream / has my heart gone to sleep?

 

15 Last Night I Had a Dream Antonio Machado Last night I had a dream-- a blessed illusion it was-- I dreamt of a fountain flowing deep down in my heart. Water, by what hidden channels have you come, tell me, to me, welling up with new life I never tasted before? Last night I had a dream-- a blessed illusion it was-- I dreamt of a hive at work deep down in my heart. Within were the golden bees straining out the bitter past to make sweet-tasting honey, and white honeycomb. Last night I had a dream-- a blessed illusion it was-- I dreamt of a hot sun shining deep down in my heart. The heat was in the scorching as from a fiery hearth; the sun in the light it shed and the tears it brought to the eyes. Last night I had a dream-- a blessed illusion it was-- I dreamed it was God I’d found deep down in my heart. 16 Has my heart gone to sleep? Has my heart gone to sleep? Have the beehives of my dreams stopped working, the waterwheel of the mind run dry, scoops turning empty, only shadow inside? No, my heart is not asleep. It is awake, wide awake. Not asleep, not dreaming-- its eyes are opened wide watching distant signals, listening on the rim of the vast silence.

both from Selected Poems translated by Alan Trueblood

not the fundamental I but the deep you

from “Proverbs and Songs”
Dedicated to Jose Ortega y Gasset
Antonio Machado

IV
But look in your mirror for the other one,
the other one who walks by your side.

V
Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing.
Guess it.

XV
Look for your other half
who walks always next to you
and tends to be what you aren’t.

XVII
In my solitude
I have seen things very clearly
that were not true.

XVIII
Water is good, so is thirst;
shadow is good, so is sun;
the honey from the rosemarys
and the honey of the bare fields.

XXI
Form your letters slowly and well:
making things well
is more important than making them.

XXIV
Wake up, you poets:
let echoes end,
and voices begin.

XXV
But don’t hunt for dissonance;
because, in the end, there is no dissonance.
When the sound is heard people dance.

XXVI
What the poet is searching for
is not the fundamental I
but the deep you.

XXVIII
Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
waking up.

XXXIV
If a poem becomes common,
passed around, hand to hand, it’s OK:
gold is chosen for coins.

XL
But art?
It is pure and intense play,
so it is like pure and intense life,
so it is like pure and intense fire.
You’ll see the coal burning.