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"Soy un bicho de la tierra como cualquier ser humano, con cualidades y defectos, con errores y aciertos, -déjenme quedarme así- con mi memoria, ahora que yo soy. No quiero olvidar nada."

José Saramago

domingo, 24 de abril de 2011

POEMAS TRADUCIDOS AL INGLÉS DEL GRAN AUTOR JAROSLAV SEIFERT (REPÚBLICA CHECA)




Biography


Jaroslav Seifert was born on 23 September 1901 into a working-class family living in Zizkov, a suburb of Prague. He attended secondary school and soon began devoting himself to writing poetry and to journalism. He made his debut in 1918; he published his first collection of poems in 192 1. He belonged to the extreme left wing of the Social Democratic Party, which, in 1921, was to form the core of the Communist Party in newly formed Czechoslovakia. He became an editor of communist newspapers and magazines (Rovnost, Srsatec, Reflektor) while, at the same time, working at the communist publishing house and bookstore. In the 1920s he was a leading representative of the Czechoslovakian artistic avant-garde; he served on the editorial staffs of several of its publications. He translated from the French (Apollinaire, Verlaine, and others). In March 1929, together with six other important communist writers, he signed a manifesto protesting against Bolshevik tendencies in the new leadership of Czechoslovakia's Communist Party, and together with his fellow signers, he was expelled from the party. From 1930, he served in various editorial posts within the social democratic press (Pestré kvety, Ranní noviny). During the German occupation, he was editor of the dailyNárodní práce and after 1945, of the trade-union daily Práce. During the years 1945-1948, he edited the literary monthly Kytice. Since 1949, when he was forced to leave journalism, he has devoted himself exclusively to literature. In 1936, 1955, and 1968, his poetry was awarded state prizes. In 1967, he was designated National Artist. In 1968, he was elected to the post of Chairman of the Czechoslovakian Writers' Union. During the years 1969-1970, he was Chairman of the Czech Writers' Union.
Jaroslav Seifert died  on January 101986.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1993. This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book seriesLes Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures


To Be a Poet


Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.
In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický's death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.
Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.
Flare up, flame of words,
and soar,
even if my fingers get burned!
A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one's finger.
But not even Puchmajer's Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.
In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman's smile and
wind-blown hair.
That has been my destiny.
And I've been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.


Autobiography

 

 

Sometimes
when she would talk about herself
my mother would say:
My life was sad and quiet,
I always walked on tip-toe.
But if I got a little angry
and stamped my foot
the cups, which had been my mother's,
would tinkle on the dresser
and make me laugh.
At the moment of my birth, so I am told,
a butterfly flew in by the window
and settled on my mother's bed,
but that same moment a dog howled in the yard.
My mother thought
it a bad omen.
My life of course has not been quite
as peaceful as hers.
But even when I gaze upon our present days
with wistfulness
as if at empty picture frames
and all I see is a dusty wall,
still it has been so beautiful.
There are many moments
I cannot forget,
moments like radiant flowers
in all possible colours and hues,
evenings filled with fragrance
like purple grapes
hidden in the leaves of darkness.
With passion I read poetry
and loved music
and blundered, ever surprised,
from beauty to beauty.
But when I first saw
the picture of a woman nude
I began to believe in miracles.
My life unrolled swiftly.
It was too short
for my vast longings,
which had no bounds.
Before I knew it
my life's end was drawing near.
Death soon will kick open my door
and enter.
With startled terror I'll catch my breath
and forget to breathe again.
May I not be denied the time
once more to kiss the hands
of the one who patiently and in step with me
walked on and on and on
and who loved most of all.


Fragment of a Letter


All night rain lashed the windows.
I couldn't go to sleep.
So I switched on the light
and wrote a letter.
If love could fly,
as of course it can't,
and didn't so often stay close to the ground,
it would be delightful to be enveloped
in its breeze.
But like infuriated bees
jealous kisses swarm down upon
the sweetness of the female body
and an impatient hand grasps
whatever it can reach,
and desire does not flag.
Even death might be without terror
at the moment of exultation.
But who has ever calculated
how much love goes
into one pair of open arms!
Letters to women
I always sent by pigeon post.
My conscience is clear.
I never entrusted them to sparrowhawks
or goshawks.
Under my pen the verses dance no longer
and like a tear in the corner of an eye
the word hangs back.
And all my life, at its end,
is now only a fast journey on a train:
I'm standing by the window of the carriage
and day after day
speeds back into yesterday
to join the black mists of sorrow.
At times I helplessly catch hold
of the emergency brake.
Perhaps I shall once more catch sight
of a woman's smile,
trapped like a torn-off flower
on the lashes of her eyes.
Perhaps I may still be allowed
to send those eyes at least one kiss
before they're lost to me in the dark.
Perhaps once more I shall even see
a slender ankle
chiselled like a gem
out of warm tenderness,
so that I might once more
half choke with longing.
How much is there that man must leave behind
as the train inexorably approaches
Lethe Station
with its plantations of shimmering asphodels
amidst whose perfume everything is forgotten.
Including human love.
That is the final stop:
the train goes no further.

An Umbrella from Piccadilly

 

 

If you're at your wits' end concerning love
try falling in love again —
say, with the Queen of England.
Why not!
Her features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
But if you were to ask her
for a date in Hyde Park
you can bet that
you'd wait in vain.
If you've any sense at all
you'll wisely tell yourself:
Why of course, I know:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.
When he was in England
my son bought me in London's Piccadilly
an elegant umbrella.
Whenever necessary
I now have above my head
my own small sky
which may be black
but in its tensioned wire spokes
God's mercy may be flowing like
an electric current.
I open my umbrella even when it's not raining,
as a canopy
over the volume of Shakespeare's sonnets
I carry with me in my pocket.
But there are moments when I am frightened
even by the sparkling bouquet of the universe.
Outstripping its beauty
it threatens us with its infinity
and that is all too similar
to the sleep of death.
It also threatens us with the void and frostiness
of its thousands of stars
which at night delude us
with their gleam.
The one we have named Venus
is downright terrifying.
Its rocks are still on the boil
and like gigantic waves
mountains are rising up
and burning sulphur falls.
We always ask where hell is.
It is there!
But what use is a fragile umbrella
against the universe?
Besides, I don't even carry it.
I have enough of a job
to walk along
clinging close to the ground
as a nocturnal moth in daytime
to the coarse bark of a tree.
All my life I have sought the paradise
that used to be here,
whose traces I have found
only on women's lips
and in the curves of their skin
when it is warm with love.
All my life I have longed
for freedom.
At last I've discovered the door
that leads to it.
It is death.
Now that I'm old
some charming woman's face
will sometimes waft between my lashes
and her smile will stir my blood.
Shyly I turn my head
and remember the Queen of England,
whose features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
God save the Queen!
Oh yes, I know quite well:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.

Textos del libro The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers
Edited by George Gibian
Copyright © 1998 by Ewald Osers and George Gibian


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