Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Alfonsina Storni, The Rosebush's Restlessness

This Spanish-language poet is a new discovery for me, though she's very famous in Argentina and among Spanish readers. This little poem was also the title poem of her first book, which she later seems to have put down or disowned —

At 19... I write my first book of verses, an awful book of verses. May God spare you, my friend, from La inquietud del rosal (The Restlessness of the Rose Bush)! ... I wrote it to survive. (Alfonsina Storni, in a letter from 1938)

Anyway, here it is in English. I don't doubt there will be more to follow as her work is quite gripping.

Spanish is richer in rhyme than English so the echo in my lines is minimal.

Alfonsina Storni 
The Rosebush’s Restlessness 
The rosebush with its restless way of blooming
is burning up the sap that stokes its being.
Just look at the roses dropping from the bush:
So many it will drive the plant to death!
The rosebush is no grown-up and in its haste
to give out flowers its impatient life is spent. 
                                                        [trans. Tracy Ryan]

Storni, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2982483

Rilke and Unicorns (3rd instalment)

Tim this morning reminded me of Paul Muldoon's brilliant translation (in his book Hay) of the Rilke unicorn sonnet I posted about last time.

To round off my investigations among Rilke's unicorn poems, here is a version of Rilke's poem that actually bears the title, "The Unicorn".

Rainer Maria Rilke 
The Unicorn 
The holy man raised his head, and prayer
fell backward like a helmet off his head:
noiselessly, the never-believed drew near,
the white creature, that like a ravished
and helpless hind used its eyes to implore. 
The legs’ ivory framework moved about
with easy poise and equilibrium,
a white sheen floated ecstatic through the coat,
and on the creature’s brow, so clear and calm,
stood, like some moon-tower, the horn so bright,
raised more upright as each step came. 
The muzzle with its grey-pink fuzz
was drawn back slightly, so a little white
(whiter than all else) shone from its jaws;
the nostrils flared and softly panted.
Yet not bounded by any thing, its gaze
tossed images into the space around it
and ended a blue cycle of legends.

                                                           [trans. Tracy Ryan]

Here is part of Naomi Segal's comment on the original German version of this poem:

"This first unicorn text is the least typical in a number of ways. Actually titled ‘Das Einhorn’, unlike any of the others, it features no maiden; femininity is not focused, as conventionally, on the unicorn’s other, but on itself. The unicorn is compared to a female animal: a hind – this is something we almost never find in the literature, at least since the Lascaux painting 160,000 years earlier, though of course it is often a feminised male. The counterpart to the creature, to its distinctively unreal reality, is instead a saint. He is the focaliser, the whole three-sentence text being his vision; in this it connects to the sonnet, where again the being of the creature is dependent on a creative state of contemplativity on the part of others: this thing walks into one’s field of vision only when one is in a kind of dream. In such a state –prayer giving way to legend, the vocative to the collective imaginary – ‘das Niegeglaubte’ is made manifest."