Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pablo Neruda is the world's best poet

I just have to share the amazing vibrancy of my favourite poet. He's a Chilean called Pablo Neruda. I discovered his poems in my first year of university and fell in love with the way he uses words. The only problem is that he writes in Spanish and then his words are translated with much artistic license by English writers. Some are much better than others. I actually have one of his poetry books where they list the original Spanish poem beside the translation and despite not knowing Spanish fluently, you can just tell the English version does not do justice to the expression.
Despite that, I would love to share his work in my small way as it makes me happy!

He has written hundreds of odes to everything from old socks to a tomato. This one is my favourite. (I've included two separate translations - which one do you think is better?)

Ode to a Lemon by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree's yellow
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
the harbors are big with it-
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
into the starry
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
aromatic facades.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

Ode to the Lemon

From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its planetarium
lemons descended to the earth.

Tender yield!
The coasts,
the markets glowed
with light, with
unrefined gold;
we opened
two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
from the hemispheres
of a star,
the most intense liqueur
of nature,
unique, vivid,
born of the cool, fresh
of its fragrant house,
its acid, secret symmetry.

sliced a small
in the lemon,
the concealed apse, opened,
revealed acid stained glass,
oozed topaz,
cool architecture.

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
yellow goblet
of miracles,
a fragrant nipple
of the earth's breast,
a ray of light that was made fruit,
the minute fire of a planet.

-- Pablo Neruda.
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