Barnstone, like other verse-translators who are also accomplished poets, faces the Sisyphean task of trying to bend his own voice and verve to fit those of the poet he is translating. This is where most of the book's vulnerabilities lie for two reasons: 1 Barnstone is not just any old good poet but actually one of the very best sonnet-writers alive, and he would be likely to have a really hard time keeping himself in line, as it were, and 2 The six poets represented in this volume have very different voices, and come from very different time periods, which renders the translations particularly susceptible to intertemporal comparison.
Unfortunately, these two vulnerabilities pervade the book. The six poets in question end up sounding a little too similar to each other. What's more, they all sound a little like Barnstone. Quevedo suffers particularly badly in this regard.
Los Muros de agua (Spanish Edition)
Here, by way of an example, is one of Quevedo's most famous sonnets followed by a literal prose rendering and then Barnstone's translation. I made way into the country, and saw that the sun drank the streams unbound from the ice, and the cattle complaining of the copse that purloined the light of day from them with shadows. I went into my house. I saw that, despoiled, it was the ruins of an aged room; my cane more curved and less strong.
I felt my sword to be conquered by the age, and I did not find a thing to rest my eyes upon that was not a reminder of death.
He Shows How All Things Warn of Death I gazed upon my country's tottering walls, one day grandiose, now rubble on the ground, worn out by vicious time, only renowned for weakness in a land where courage fails. I went into the fields.
Rio De Aguas Azules: Relatos (Los Muros De Agua) by Horacio Salazar Ortiz
I saw the sun drinking the springs just melted from the ice, and cattle moaning as the forests climb against the thinning day, now overrun with shade. I saw my old room yellowed with with the sickening breath of age, my cane flimsier than before. I felt my sword coffined in rust, and walked about, and everything I looked at bore a warning of the wasted gaze of death. First of all, mad props go to Barnstone for knowing that, in Renaissance Spanish, "monte" meant not "hill" but "forest.
How to Avoid Confusing Similar Words Between English and Spanish
There's nothing particularly wrong or unusual about this in a poetic, non-literal translation. It's to be expected.
However, much of it does not sound at all like Quevedo or, for that matter, any Baroque Spanish poet. For starters, the half-dozen half-rhymes, though common in modern English poetry, sound peculiar here in a poem supposed to represent classical forms. Even more jarring, though, is the enjambment of lines 8 and 9.
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The 9th line traditionally marks the volta or "turning point" of the classical European sonnet. In Quevedo's original, the first 8 lines discuss the speaker's experience outdoors, whereas the last 6 discuss his experience upon entering his own home.
The original literally reads "I saw that it was despoiled, the remnants of an aged room. Many of the cenotes are just large pools interconnected by subterranean rivers.
This excites scuba divers, who seek to explore and map these hidden waterways. Many of these rivers run for thousands of feet between cenotes.
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A multitude of skeletal remains of animals and humans have been found in these water filled cave systems, which has caused speculation that the people in the area once practiced ritual sacrifice. But it seems more likely that animals and people simply occasionally fell into the pools and drowned. Also, because the cenotes were a precious water source in a land with little surface water, it seems unlikely that the people would pollute the cenotes by throwing corpses into them. Nowadays, those that own a cenote let tourists throw their sunburned carcasses into the pools for a ritual cooling off from the often oppressive heat experienced at ground level.
Ceremonial offerings never sink to the bottom of the pool, but instead goes into the hands of the entrepreneur as the price of admission. Unfortunately, conventional concrete blocks purchased on the market have a high coefficient of capillary suction and a low resistance to water penetration. In this research, concrete blocks and cylinders were produced and analyzed experimentally.
Capillary water absorption test and resistance to water penetration test were completed. A comparative analysis of the results was performed in order to determine the optimum addition of paraffin wax.