On Poetry and Culture Shock

Rhymed poetry by Seamus Heaney

I prefer modern poetry not to rhyme because I think that the search for interesting rhymes is too much of a strain on content. But sometimes, only sometimes, rhymed poetry is good even when the rhymes are not hard and clever. Seamus Heaney, a writer with an excellent control of rhythm, manages to rhyme “me” and “be” , and still make me want to be him when I grow up. For the time being, I think I will just translate him. Which is appropriate, because his best work is his translation of Beowulf.

My mother thinks the word “scaffolding”, in English, is funny, so this is for her.

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding:

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done,
showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
old bridges breaking between you and me,

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall,
Confident that we have built our wall.

En una obra, los albañiles al principio
miman los andamios del futuro edificio.

Clavan y fijan tornillos y barras,
aprietan y montan las tuercas y amarras.

No importa que al final quitemos todo eso,
queremos ver los muros de ladrillo y yeso.

Por eso, mi vida, si a veces sientes
que rompo las cuerdas que hacia mí tiendes

No te asustes. Cae el andamio, solamente.
para que tranquila, cruces el puente.

2 comentarios

La Guiri -

Thank you, Luc. I find composing rhymed poetry impossible, because I spend so much energy looking for a rhyme that I can't think of content at all! When I translate rhymed poetry, it is only a question of preserving as much original content as possible.

guiri1967 -

In Barcelona the andamios (or at least parts of it)sometimes come down before the building's done. Most people avoid walking underneath them.

Very good translation. Making a translation rhyme must be even more difficult than making your own poems rhyme.