lunes, 7 de abril de 2014

La Misa de Amor


Mañanita de San Juan,
mañanita de primor,
cuando damas y galanes
van a oír misa mayor.
Allá va la mi señora,
entre todas la mejor;
viste saya sobre saya,
mantellín de tornasol,
camisa con oro y perlas
bordada en el cabezón.
En la su boca muy linda
lleva un poco de dulzor;
en la su cara tan blanca,
un poquito de arrebol,
y en los sus ojuelos garzos
lleva un poco de alcohol;
así entraba por la iglesia
relumbrando como sol.
Las damas mueren de envidia,
y los galanes de amor.
El que cantaba en el coro,
en el credo se perdió;
el abad que dice misa,
ha trocado la lición;
monacillos que le ayudan,
no aciertan responder, non,
por decir amén, amén,
decían amor, amor.


Early in the morning on San Juan's,
early in the morning of beauty,
when young ladies and gentlemen
go to hear High Mass.
There goes my lady,
the best among them all,
wearing a two-piece skirt,
a mantilla with an iridescent sheen,
a blouse with gold and pearls
embroidered on the collar.
On her very beautiful mouth
she wears a little lipstick;
on her face so white,
a touch of rouge,
and about her big blue eyes,
a little eyeliner;
she entered the church like that,
dazzling like the sun.
The ladies are dying with envy,
the young gentlemen from love.
The singer in the choir
lost himself in the creed;
the abbot giving mass
got all mixed up during his sermon;
the altar boys who are there to help him don't manage to reply correctly, no,
for instead of saying "amen, amen,"
they were saying "amor, amor."]

Since Edith Grossman will be treating our April The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance group readers to a number of high end pro translations of some of the signature "learned" poetry from the Siglo de Oro era later in the month, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer up an amateur translation or two of some of the more popular romancero or songbook poetry being collected and published at the same time to balance things out somewhat.  A bad idea, I'm afraid--at the very least, I was quickly reminded of how insanely easy it is to wreak aesthetic destruction on even a simple poem just by attempting to provide a more or less literal translation of it without regard to rhyme or meter.  Ugh.  In any event, the anonymous romance "La Misa de Amor" ["The Mass of Love"] above--often presented as "La bella en misa" ["The Beauty at Mass"]--is one of the more frequently anthologized examples of romancero poetry that I've seen with lovely little variations available in Catalan, French, and Occitan as well as other ones in Spanish.  It's also supposedly a staple among the Sephardi Jewish community although I've yet to come across any translations of those variants that I can remember.  In this version, borrowed from Ramón Menéndez Pidal's Flor nueva de romances viejos, there's the usual playful interplay between the beauty of mass on a famous feast day such as San Juan's--the poem's "mañanita de primor" ["early in the morning of beauty"] in line 2--and the beauty at mass who disrupts the service by virtue of her show-stopping physical appearance.  Menéndez Pidal points out a further irony worth sharing here: the poem's composer gets so wrapped up in the "inocente irreverencia" ["innocent irreverence"] of the matter and in particular the detailed description of the beautiful lady's dress and make-up that "las gracias naturales de la hermosura" ["the natural graces of her beauty"] are almost completely forgotten (207)!  Note: the Spanish words I translated as "lipstick" and "eyeliner" could just as well have meant something more like "lip gloss" or "eye shadow" or whatever those 15th and 16th century Iberian Peninsula equivalents were.  It'd be nice if somebody from Elle or Ella España could step in and help a brother out with this.

"La Misa de Amor" appears on pp. 206-207 of Ramón Menéndez Pidal's Flor nueva de romances viejos (Madrid: Espasa, 2001) sans my primitive prose translation.  Menéndez Pidal defines the romance genre as "poemas épico-líricos breves que se cantan al son de un instrumento" ["brief epic/lyrical poems that are sung to the sound of an instrument"] (9), a convenient enough description for our purposes here and one which explains the obvious musicality of this poem when it's read in the original Spanish.  The image of the two juglares (French: jongleurs) is from an artist/work as yet unknown to me.

10 comentarios:

  1. Well, I'm not from Elle Espanol, but I found for you Elizabethan Makeup 101: which talks about, inter alia, the importance of a white face. (Gee, not much has changed....)

    1. Jill, it may surprise you--or maybe not--that the blonde slave girl was a topos even in "medieval" Andalusian literature. Sorry to hear you're not from Elle Español, but thanks for that link all the same!

  2. Spanish scansion is not my forte, I can't tell if these verses are supposed to be 7 or 8 syllables, but I think this is a redondilla:

    1. Miguel, you're making me wade into dangerous waters here as scansion isn't my forte in any language whatsoever! That being said, the main differences between the romances and the redondillas as I understand it are that the former are composed of an unlimited number of verses in assonant rhyme (usually in the even lines) while the latter are composed in quatrains with consonant rhyme (usually in an abba sequence). Both are supposed to be octosyllabic, but I see examples of 7 and 8 syllables in the romances all the time. Because of the verse schemes and the narrative thematic thrust, the romances are sometimes said to have originated out of the epic poetry tradition in medieval Spain. Interesting stuff, but I'll likely need a life vest if people ask me too many follow-up questions to your comment!

  3. Though I cannot read the original, and I cannot speak to technical aspects as Miguel does above, but the verse, and thus translation is charming and warm. I like it.

    1. Brian, thanks so much for letting me know you enjoyed that. The original is both "charming and warm" in addition to having a sort of laid back, pleasant musicality, so I'm glad some of that feeling came through somehow despite the raggedness of the disappointing-to-me translation!

  4. Having just finished my way through Grossman's translations--and spending a very little time comparing them to the Spanish--I'm more convinced than ever that translation of poetry is a ridiculously difficult task. Your prose translation here works for me! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading it.

    1. I'm glad to hear that my translation wasn't a total disaster for you, Amanda, even though it certainly still feels like one for me! "A ridiculously difficult task"? Agreed! However, Grossman reminded me how lovely translations can be in their own right and how fun it can be to see how translators resolve certain problems in languages that one's familiar with (hopefully I can do this with a Dante translation someday, but it sure would be nice to do it with Homeric Greek or classic Arabic as well if I had a couple of extra lifetimes to spare).