Kenneth Rexroth:

Translations from Italian and Spanish


Translations from Italian
Giacomo Leopardi

Translations from Spanish
Anonymous cancionero
Antonio Machado (2)
Federico García Lorca (2)
Rafael Alberti
Pablo Neruda
Arturo Serrano Plaja (2)




Translations from Italian




I have come at last to the short
Day and the long shadow when the
Hills turn white and the grass fades. Still
Longing stays green, stuck in this hard
Stone that speaks and hears as if it was
A woman. So it was this strange
Woman stood cold as shadowed snow,
Unmoved as stone by the sweet times
When the hills turn warm and turn from
White to green and are covered with
Flowers and grass. She, when she goes
Wreathed in herbs, drives every other
Woman from my mind — shimmering
Gold with green — so lovely that love
Comes to rest in her shadow, she
Who has caught me fast between
Two hills, faster far than fused stone.
No magic gem has her power.
No herb can heal her blow. I have
Fled through the fields, over the hills,
Trying to escape from such a
Woman, but there is no wall, no
Hill, no green leaf, can ever shade
Me from her light. Time was, I saw
Her dressed all in green, so lovely
She would have made a stone love her
As I do, who love her very
Shadow. Time was, we loved once in
The grass, she loving as ever
A woman was, and the high hills
Around us. But for sure rivers
Will flow back to the hills before
This wood, full of sap and green,
Ever catch fire again from me
As lovely women do — I who
Would be glad to sleep away my
Life turned to stone, or live on grass,
If only I could be where her
Skirts would cast their shadow on me.
Now when the shadow of the hills
Is blackest, under beautiful
Green, this young woman makes it
Vanish away at last, as if
She hid a stone in the grass.

DANTE (1265-1321)




This lonely hill has always
Been dear to me, and this thicket
Which shuts out most of the final
Horizon from view. I sit here,
And gaze, and imagine
The interminable spaces
That stretch away, beyond my mind,
Their uncanny silences,
Their profound calms; and my heart
Is almost overwhelmed with dread.
And when the wind drones in the
Branches, I compare its sound
With that infinite silence;
And I think of eternity,
And the dead past, and the living
Present, and the sound of it;
And my thought drowns in immensity;
And shipwreck is sweet in such a sea.




Translations from Spanish




When the wind murmurs
Mother, in the leaves,
The drone puts me to sleep
Deep in the shade.

The calm wind blows
Lightly, softly,
And moves the ship
Of my mind.
I am so contented.
It seems to me
Heaven has given me
Too many blessings.
And the drone puts me to sleep
Deep in the shade.

If I happen to wake up
Covered with flowers
I cannot remember
Anything sorrowful.
All trace of my loss
Is hidden in dreams.
And new life comes
In the sound of the leaves.
And the drone puts me to sleep
Deep in the shade.





Green little gardens,
Bright little squares,
Verdigris fountains,
Where water dreams,
Where mute water
Slips over stone.

Leaves of faded
Green, almost black,
Of the acacias — the wind
Of September has
Stripped their flowers
And carried a few,
Yellow and dry,
To play there in the white
Dust of the earth.

Pretty girl,
Filling your pitcher
With transparent water,
When you catch sight of me you don’t
Lift your brown hand
And arrange the black curls
Of your hair
And admire yourself
In the limpid crystal.

You gaze into the air
Of the beautiful evening
While the clear water
Fills your pitcher.




Facing the palm of fire
Which spreads from the departing sun
Throughout the silent evening —
In this garden of peace —
While flowery Valencia
Drinks the Guadalquiver —
Valencia of slender towers
In the young skies of Ausias March,
Your river changes to roses
At the touch of the sea.
I think of the war. War
Has swept like a tornado
Through the steppes of high Douro,
Through the plains of growing bread,
From fertile Estramadura
To the gardens of lemon trees,
From the grey skies of Asturias
To the marshes of light and salt.
I think that Spain has been sold out,
River by river, mountain by mountain, sea by sea.





Under the orange tree,
She washes her underwear.
Her eyes are very green.
Her voice is violet.

Ha! Love,
Under the orange blossoms!

The water in the brook
Is full of the sun.
In the olive tree
A sparrow is singing.

Ha! Love,
Under the orange blossoms!

As soon as Lola
Uses up her soap,
some guys show up.

Ha! Love,
Under the orange blossoms!




I have shut my windows.
I do not want to hear the weeping.
But from behind the grey walls,
Nothing is heard but the weeping.

There are few angels that sing.
There are few dogs that bark.
A thousand violins fit in the palm of the hand.
But the weeping is an immense angel.
The weeping is an immense dog.
The weeping is an immense violin.
Tears strangle the wind.
Nothing is heard but the weeping.





My splendor, my love,
Beginning of my life,
I want to tell all of your beauty,
Here, in the midst of the sea, while I seek for you,
While I have only the cool beauty
Of the waves to compare with you.
Your hair is a fountain of gold,
A rain of foam embracing me,
Bearing me up, to sail to the end of the night.
Your brow is the dawn above double rainbows,
Where the suns go by so gently
Like boats dreaming into the daybreak.
What can I say about your mouth, your ears,
Your neck, your shoulders; when the sea hides its shells,
Its coral and submarine gardens,
Lest, under the wings of the South,
I compare them to you?
Your thighs are like two long still bays.
The silence of love envelops them.
They sing the same song as your arms.
It is sad to have to say this, here, far away
From those shadowy gulfs, those islands
Calling to a sail they sense passing by,
Far from its route, unseen.
My love, your legs are two beaches,
Two taut, undulant dunes,
Rumorous with rushes when they are not sleeping.
Give me your little feet to caress,
Let me know all your shores,
Let me sink into the sea, let me sink into you, my life,
Into your love, through your love, singing
Of your beauty, beautiful as the waves.

RAFAEL ALBERTI (1902-1999)




I believe you are more mine than my skin. When I seek
Within me, along my veins, in my blood, my mysterious
Circulatory branches of light that I tell over,
It is you I find, as if you were blood,
As if you were stone or a bite.
I stay outside late, reason, delirium, clothes.
I am of an old race of darkness and forests,
But while I bend down as in a well and enter
Feeling my way like a blind man in my own territory,
I find no railing to direct my steps,
But, instead, the growth of your rose in my own dwelling.
Deep in me you go on growing, unfathomable
In your origin, I cannot touch your eyes
Without burning my fingernails on their petals,
The flames of your form which burn in my thirst,
The leaves of your face which build your absence.
I ask, “Who is there? Who is there?” as if very late,
Very late, somebody knocked
On my door, and then in the middle
Of emptiness there was nothing but air,
Water, trees, the dying daily fire,
As if there was nothing there but everything which exists,
Nothing but all the earth which had rapped on my door.
So, nameless, vague as life, turbid
As the burgeoning mud and vegetation,
You awake in my breast whenever I shut my eyes.
When I lie on the earth you come into being
Like the flowing dust, the river deepening its bed,
Guarding a tangle of naked roots
Which grows as grows your presence in me,
Which accompanies their darkness as you accompany me.
So, here, blood or wheat, earth or fire, we live
Like a single plant which cannot explain its leaves.

PABLO NERUDA (1904-1973)




Here by the bridges of the Seine
In this spring of exile
I know I am old at last and alone with my pain.
And I feel the weight of the chain
Of all my dilapidated liberty.

Here I am, a knotted and wormeaten trunk,
Stripped leafless in this winter country.
And now there come to my branches
And to my trunk of forgetfulness,
So lightly, the morning sparrows
And begin to build a nest.

Here I am, bridge to another age —
And in the current, bygone, raw memories,
Like melting snow
Under a burning sun,
Pass away beneath my eyes
And leave only their reflections
Like brilliant light in a mirror.




Is this autumn with its color of forgetfulness,
Its yellow gestures in the tender twilight?
Can this be the same valley which waited for winter,
Gathering its quiet about it, its sadness?

Is this calm pine offering to teach me?
These silver poplars along the river bank?
Or the far off golden woodland telling over and over
With the ink of dead leaves the mystery of the temple?

Maybe this heavy, trembling weakness
Of passing fever, of a convalescence,
Which ties me to life with strands of patience,
Offers me, in place of bitter hope, this enchantment?

Today everything is yellow, trembling and distant,
And the seas still wait for me, although I am still uprooted,
Although the wanderings of exile,
With their abandoned dreams, still lie ahead of me,
Today there is only the splendor of peace and melody.



The translations from Italian are from The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (New Directions, 1966). Copyright 1966 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

The translations from Spanish are from 30 Spanish Poems of Love and Exile (City Lights, 1956). Copyright 1956 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.

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