Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"This coloured counterfeit that thou beholdest" by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

The poem as composed in Spanish:

"A su retrato"

Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido:

éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores,
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado:

es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

English translation by Samuel Beckett:

"This coloured counterfeit that thou beholdest"...

This coloured counterfeit that thou beholdest,
vainglorious with excellencies of art,
is, in fallacious syllogisms of colour,
nought but a cunning dupery of sense;

this in which flattery has undertaken
to extenuate the hideousness of years,
and, vanquishing the outrages of time,
to triumph o’er oblivion and old age,

is an empty artifice of care,
is a fragile flower in the wind,
is a paltry sanctuary from fate,

is a foolish sorry labour lost,
is conquest doomed to perish and, well taken,
is corpse and dust, shadow and nothingness.

Source of the text in Spanish: from Margaret Sayers Peden, “Building a Translation” from The Craft of Translation, edited by John Biguenet, Rainer Schulte… p.15 [poem in Spanish]

Source of the English translation: An Anthology of Mexican Poetry, edited by Octavio Paz and translated by Samuel Beckett.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965, p. 85.

TJB: Vision apposition. Amid strong rhetoric, is this a portrait? Beckett turns Sor Juana into an Elizabethan ironist & nails the chant-sestet.

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