Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 11:25
Here’s a version of a Darío poem, “El Canto Errante”, the first poem in a collection of that name. My attempt is pretty loose, more a variation on a theme than translation, as you can see from the original pasted in below. RD concludes by taking wing with his song into Harmony and Eternity, (“En canto vuela, con sus alas: / Armonía y Eternidad.”) which strikes an odd note after his quite playful, and occasionally bathetically modern railway rhymes: “mar” / ” vagon de sleeping-car”; “tren”, / riding an ass into “Jerusalen”. It seemed better to end with the old Routemaster bus which, in addition to an often jaunty conductor, had recognisably friendly features, rather than a single operative locked in a cab behind a flat inexpressive face. Buen viaje!
Vagabundage, or the Errant Song
very loosely after “El Canto Errante” by Rubén Darío (1867-1916)
The poet travels the whole wide earth;
and reckons what it’s really worth.
He sees the rich, he sees the poor,
in the white of peace, the red of war.
He sways through India (and this is relevant)
hallucinating on the back of an elephant.
In a palanquin – you’ve seen non finer –
he slides through the silky heart of China.
High on a ship of the desert’s back,
he sways into port from a Saharan track.
He’s in a Venetian gondola, black and sleek.,
or a Deux Chevaux on the Périférique,
A Chevrolet’s not the only way
to cruise the highways of the USA;
he parks at Avis or Hertz Car Rental,
drives off in a Lincoln Continental.
He rides the subway under Harlem;
skis down the Alps, can schuss, plough, slalom.
He bumps on the pampas on a skittish colt,
or a nervous mustang prone to bolt.
He sails across Lake Nicaragua,
fails to find downtown Managua.
In León, he dances con molto brio,
prances up to the house of Rubén Darío,
(taking in the vista with an ex-Sandinista,
who’d given it all up for a Starbucks’ barista).
Of course he’s seen the aurora borealis
– but from a bendy bus in Crystal Palace?
He’s twinkling at night on a Jumbo Jet,
above the snowy wrinkles of Tibet.
Our poet’s been seen: during the Intifada,
crossing the Green Line in a second-hand Lada;
in a bathyscope on the ocean bed;
skimming the tundra on a Shaman’s sled.
We’ve caught him at stations, catching trains:
at Waterloo he was changing for Staines;
at the Gare du Nord in the Eurostar;
in the Trans-Siberian dining car.
On rails, or wheels, by ship or wing,
he’s on the move, he notes down things.
His Routemaster waits. The conductor rings
the bell. Once more they’re off. The poet sings
–well, he hums to himself his Errant Song.
Back on the road. Ding Dong! Ding Dong!