Thursday, April 19, 2007

Keeping Quiet - Pablo Neruda (trans. Alastair Reid)

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.

If interested-- the original Spanish language version is here.


Blogger Jacqueline Spoehel O'Connor said...

Please add some corrections in the Spanish translation please:

Instead of saying
"the man gathering salt would not look at his hurt hands."
The Spanish leaves out the "Not"
(el trabajador de la sal
miraria sus manos rotas.)
actually saying:
"The one who works with salt
would look at his hurt hands."

Instead of saying "Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death."
An alternate translation for the lines:
"la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte"
would be:
"Only life is what is made,
I don't want to do with death."

I respect Alastair Reid's accomplishments, but perhaps he did not take enough time with this poem to do it justice.

7:24 PM  

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