Splendor and Death of Joaquín Murieta

Voice of the Poet-

This is the tall story of a passionate man:

natural, brave.  His memory hits like a tomahawk.

It’s time to disturb his long sleep, the grave of that purest of bandits,

break open the oblivious rust of his burial.

A warrior who never found his vocation, it may be.  I mourn him.

Man to man, we might have talked.  I’ve sweated out History

with a bottle of wine for the day when his regiment passed.

Perhaps, groping in wind, he came by a different direction.

A sunburst of violence drove the blood back into his hands:

a century passed: we still cannot alter his destiny.

The wine and the man are not ours.  We must start in a quieter time

my compatriot’s story: Don Joaquín Murieta, honorable bandit.

-Ben Belitt, translating Pablo Neruda (1972 translation)

I’ve got quibbles.  Rusty ‘forget’ that buries him… (there’s a better word, but I can’t think of it at the moment.  Or is there?  Oh, the problems of multiple languages!  We do not lose words, but gain them and are unable to bring them back across to the other language.) (and that wasn’t very poetic of me, but I seem to go for the literal.)  The soldier…  Lost in the wind…  And a whole bunch more, now that I’m looking.  I’d be better off writing my own poetry 🙂



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3 responses to “Splendor and Death of Joaquín Murieta

  1. Thank you for the translation! Definitely write your own poetry 🙂 And yes, translating anything, let alone poetry and literature, is really really difficult. I can’t judge the accuracy of the translation, but it is beautiful…

  2. I like the imagery of the oblivious rust of his burial but whether that’s the original intent…….

    Translations are tricky, aren’t they? And where is your poetry?

  3. Kathryn

    Tricky translation–would like to know why Belitt chose the words and turns of phrase he used. (Surely there was a reason for choosing “tomahawk”?) Poetry is a love affair with words and sounds and rhythms; impossible to translate retaining the same sense (and sensibility). The innate sublety of certain words in one language, closely connected to the culture of that language, causes an impression of flatness in translations. But thanks for providing the translation. It’s been fun flipping back and forth!

    Ah, Neruda.

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