Showing posts from January, 2010

Translating poetry

Many people can translate from one language into another but very few can do it properly. Translating from one language into another is not easy at all as there are so many aspects to take into consideration that even a single word can become a nightmare for anyone who wants to have a try at it. Very often, experienced translators have difficulties in translating technical texts, legal texts, novels, essays and so on. However, poetry is another story.

A few days ago, I came across a poem written by the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo entitled Miré los muros de la patria mía and noticed that his poem has been translated into English by quite a few authors. The differences are enlightening. Take a look at two of the translations I have come across. This is the original poem written by the Spanish poet:

Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645)

Miré los muros de la patria mía,
si un tiempo fuertes ya desmoronados
de la carrera de la edad cansados
por quien caduca ya su valentía.

Salíme al campo: vi qu…

Scent of a woman

The first time I read Sonnet 64 from Spencer´s Amoretti, I was surprised by the perfect way he describes a kiss, a smell, a scent of a woman. Then I relized that his sonnet was very similar to what king Solomon wrote in the biblical book of Song of Solomon chapter four. With the use of wonderful rhetorical tricks such as metaphors, comparisons and vivid images, the king describes the beauty of a woman in theses terms:
How beautiful you are, my love,
         how very beautiful!
     Your eyes are doves
         behind your veil.
     Your hair is like a flock of goats,
         moving down the slopes of Gilead.
2  Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
         that have come up from the washing,
     all of which bear twins,
         and not one among them is bereaved.
3  Your lips are like a crimson thread,
         and your mouth is lovely.
     Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
         behind your veil.
4  Your neck is like the tower of David,
         built in courses;
     on it h…

Doctors in Haiti

From Madrid, from Warsaw, from New York, from Moscow...hundreds of doctors from all over the world have fled to Haiti to help those in need. From the very first moment they arrived in that desolated land, they have been distributing medicines, operating children and amputating the limbs of those whose situation was tragic. Certainly, their main goal is to help, to heal and to make people´s lives better. They are doing a very good job worth praising. It is good to know that healing others has no skin colour, no gender, no religion and no political ideas.

Dr. Faustus. Act 1. Scene 1
by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

Summum bonum medicinae sanitas (16)
The end of physic is our bodies´health (17)

The Latin espression can also be rendered this way: "Good health is the object of medicine".
Could you send me Latin expressions used in literature to refer to other sciences ? Thank you.
I am posting a link to a video that describes some of the activities of a group of doctors in Haiti:

The art itself is Nature

This weather is changing all around me. I see the landscape as I had never seen it before. It has snowed so much that I see my life in grey and white: the roads are grey, the pavement is white; the sky is grey, the trees are white; the parking places are grey, the cars are white; the ducks are grey, the riverbank is white; Yet, life in two colours is beautiful too. Nature is the master, art is the student.

Winter´s Tale
Act IV, Scene IV

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Nature is made better by no mean (89)
But nature makes that mean; so over that art
Which you say adds to Nature, is an art
That Nature makes. You see,sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to he wildest stock,
And make conceve a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature. (97)

Samson, Milton and my father- in- law

It´s been already five years since my father-in-law died. When he passed away we were in Spain and my wife had to take the first flight to Poland. The following months were very sad for all of us because he was an excellent man, a loving grandfather and a great father-in-law.

I still remember very vividly the great time we had in his small dzialka (small piece of land) were he had around 50 wooden beehives with thousands of honey bees flying around and producing tasty honey in the honeycombs. The first time I wore the white gown, the gloves and that funny bee gear in my head I was a bit scared because I thought the bees were going to sting all my body. Thankfully, nothing happened and the experience was unforgettable.

I have never tasted anything like the honey of those beehives !

I simply do not know why but, for some strange reason, each time I think of my father-in-law, the biblical reference to Samson and his riddle about honey come to my mind. I know that Milton wrote the poem Samso…

Why ?

During the last week I have been watching so many TV programs about Haiti in ruins that I simply cannot believe it. An entire city is gone ! The news about hundreds of people pillaging, about thousands on people queuing nearby U.N trucks just to get something to eat and drink makes me wonder why.

Why so many countries all over the world are sending food, medicine and water but people in Haiti have not received anything yet?, why so many non-governmental organizations are collecting millions of money all over the world and people in Haiti have not seen a dollar yet?, why do evil people take advantage of these terrible events to make money?, why are there so many international organizations whose main aim is to help others but in Haiti no one can see such help clearly?

The lack of answers is bringing pain to the people of Haiti. A lot of pain.
The Mystery of Pain
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Pain has an element of blank; (1)
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when…


On January 19, 1809 EdgarAlan Poe was born in Boston. I love his short stories, especially that one entitled "The Cask of Amontillado". Catacombs, carnivals, Italy and masons are the perfect language to produce a short masterpiece.
However, as this is a blog about poetry, I would like to include today one of his poems.The poem I am posting is entitled Alone and the reasonwhy I have chosen this one is because its references to childhood (1, 9), and to a “stormy life”, which reminds me of all those children who lost their parents in the Haiti earthquake last week. I hope “the cloud that took the form [….]of a demon" (20-22) may turn into a beautiful view in the near future.
Are they alone ? Alone
by Edgar Alan Poe (1809-1849)From childhood's hour I have not been (1)
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I love…

The weather is not getting better

It´s been almost a month since it started snowing heavily and the weather is not getting better. This situation is getting me very tired because I spend most of the time at home. Well, staying at home so many hours gives me the opportunity to do things that I would not do if the weather was better. If we had sunny days I would spend plenty of time walking and taking photographs. However, the huge amount of snow in the balcony and in the windows are starting to cause humidity in the dinning room walls. It is time to do something about it.
Storm Windows
by Howard Nemerow (1920-1991)

People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass
I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream
Away in lines like seaweed on the tide
Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass
Seemed that i…

Death and Destruction in Haiti

I have seen the news. I have seen people crying in the streets, buildings destroyed and horror in the faces of the survivors. What a tragedy !

The Consolation. Night IX, at Last
by Edward Young (1683-1765)

I think of nothing else; I see ! I feel it!
All Nature, like an earthquake, trembling round.

What is going to happen now? How can we help them? How is it possible that noone managed to foresee the earthquake? Could governments spend more money on systems to predict earthquakes?

I think of all the people who have lost their lives. I think of all the children who will never see their parents again. I think of all the parents who have lost their children..."I think of nothing else; I see it! I feel it !" I have included this post in today´s The New York Times (entry 489)

Trees and snow

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me some photographs from Madrid, Spain. I was shocked. I saw my neighbourhood as I have never seen it, so white, so different, so beautiful.

Here in Poland things are not different. The heavy snows of the last days have left beautiful views worth watching. For some strange reason, I do like observing trees dressed in white because they change the entire landscape and transform it into a different world, a new way to see my reality, my life, my past, present and future.

Seeing all in one colour makes me wonder whether the world I know is my real world or just one of the very many worlds that may exist in my own reality.
Some Trees
by John Ashbery (1927- )

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.


Spanish omelette

Today I am going to make an omelette. The truth is that most Saturdays I make a tasty Spanish omelette because it is one of the very few days that we all eat together and my family like it. Besides, as Spain is too far from where I am now, I guess making an omelette or preparing any other delicious Spanish dish from time to time keeps me a bit closer to my real home. The peculiar smell and taste of a Spanish omelette in unbeatable even though the ingredients and the way of making it are very simple. Would you like to try ? If the omelette is for three people, just peel off and thinly chop off enough potatoes to fill up a medium size frying pan. Then, fry the potatoes in the frying pan. Now, peel off a small onion and chop it off in very, very small pieces. (Don't cry, please !). Mix the onion with the fried potatoes and make sure the onion gets fried too. Take a bowl and beat 4 eggs energetically. Take out the fried potatoes and the onions (leave the remaining oil in the frying pan…

Polish Constitution

You may remember that yesterday I asked three questions with the intention to show the kind of topics students do not seem to be interested in these days. I am sure the first two answers were very simple: 12 and Buenos Aires. However, I do not think the last question was so easy for most people. I asked what happened on May 3, 1791 in Poland and the answer is to do with the Constitution. If it is said that the first written constitution in the world was adopted for the U.S. in 1787, the second written constitution in the world was the one that Poland adopted in 1791.
(image and photograph footnote taken from wikipedia)3 Constitution, by Matejko (1891). King Stanislaw Augustus enters St. John Cathedral

Certainly, there is nothing like freedom and liberty for the citizens of any country in the world and yet, there are so many millions of people who do not have it !
Freedomby Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Once I wished I might rehearse
Freedom's paean in my verse,
That the slave who c…

Teachers, students and knowledge

Back to school in Poland. Each semester is more complicated and one of the students´complaints is why they have to learn things that do not seem to be very important for their future plans. What is the square root of 144, what is the capital of Argentina or what happened on May 3, 1791 in Poland do not seem to be fascinating topics for students nowadays.

Well, I suppose things have not changed much since I was a student at school because I can only remember a couple of teachers who tried to show us the importance of what we were learning. I even remember their names.

Certainly, teachers have the responsability to teach but also to show the reason why students should learn things that they consider useless. It will help them understand.

To David, About His Education
by Howard Nemerov (1920- 1991)

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron go…

The Three Kings

Here in Poland students enjoy Chrismas holidays from 23 Dec-3 Jan, but Christmas holidays are much longer in Spain because kids go back to school on 11 Jan. In this way, they have a few days to play with the presents they get from the Three Kings on 6 Dec, that is to say, tomorrow !

Presents, sweets, smiles... Oh yes ! Tomorrow is a great day for the vast majority of the children who live in Spain and for all those who celebrate the same festivity.

Painting by Murillo
(Image from Wikipedia)

The Three Kings
by Henry Wadsworth Lonfellow (1807-1882)

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-…

Without winter tyres

When I lived in Spain I never heard about "summer" tyres and "winter" tyres but since I live in Poland it is absolutely necessary to have the car tyres changed before it starts snowing.

For a good variety of reasons, I did not find the time to organize an appointment with the mechanic workshop in November and now it is almost impossible to get through to them. Luckily, two days ago I managed to speak to a lady who arranged an appointment for today at 0900. However, yesterday before going to bed it started snowing and my exhilaration has turned into despair this morning when I have noticed all the buildings in white and all the trees covered with a heavy layer of snow. I have just cancelled the appointment because I am too scared to drive under these weather conditions. The roads are so slippery these days that my “summer” tyres are not good enough for these white roads. I will have to wait until they clean the roads with a horrible mixture of salt and sand that mo…

Ants, Haiku and You

I do not remember having told you the reason why I started this blog. I will tell you briefly: a friend of mine who lives in Madrid opened his blog a few months ago and told me that it was a very nice experience to write and share information with others even if you did not know them. At first I was a bit reluctant to open my own blog because I was not sure whether it would make sense to write to an abstract reader, to a cybernetic reader who I cannot see. So, one day I just logged in and posted my first poem and comment. I felt good. I did not know whether somebody would ever find the way to reach my blog until I realized that in the icon of statistics that you can see by scrolling down the page, there is a little man in red and a number. By clicking there twice, you get a map of the world with small red stars. Each star is a reader or a group of readers. It is amazing how many red stars from so many different parts of the world I can see even though I just opened this blog a month a…

First Contribution

Some of you may remember that on 28 Dec, 2009 I included a brilliant poem written by William Wordsworth entitled Perfect Woman. At the very end of my comment I asked you to send me poems where male beauty is depicted and Panishka has contributed with Poem of the Body, a very ambitious poem where the beauty of both men and women is described. The poem is part of Whitman´s Leaves of Grass (1855).

Poem of the Bodyby Walt Whitman (1819-1892)THE bodies of men and women engirth me, and
I engirth them,
They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with
them, respond to them, love them.

Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live
bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as
they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the

The expression of the body of man or woman
balks account,
The male is perfect, and that of the female is per-

The expression of a well-made man appears not
only i…

In remembrance

Many people passed away in 2009. Most of them were unknown to the vast majority of the population and just a few of them were known to all of us. However, all of them have something in common: they will be remembered by what they did.

Yesterday I left a short comment (number 41) in The New York Times that I would like to share with you:

Yes. Every single year there are people who leave us and it is very sad. This always reminds me of John Milton´s Lycidas. When Milton´s colleage died, the poet wrote the beautiful pastoral poem Lycidas. In one of his verses we read:

“But,oh ! the heavy change, now thou art gone, (38)
Now thou art gone,and never must return ! [...]
And all their echoes, mourn”. (41)

John Milton, Lycidas, in Justa Edovardo King naufrago, 1638, Cambridge: Th. Buck and R. Daniel, Special Printed Collections, Alexander Turnbull Library
However, even though they will never return again, their films, pictures, books, poems and songs will stay with us forever.

You can find the entire …