Sunday, February 16, 2014


Reading Tom Clark’s translation of Wang Wei reminded me of how much I love translations.  I love reading two or more and then lining them up and comparing them.   I feel as if I am looking through a window with many compartments, and each one shows a slightly different picture.   "Black Stone over a White Stone" or should I say, "Black Stone Lying on a White Stone" is one of the poems I've seen translated the most, maybe because so many of us know Spanish or think we know Spanish.  I read once that Robert Bly did not know many of the languages he translated.

(Translation by Andres Rojas)
I will die in Paris in a rainstorm,
on a day I remember already.
I will die in Paris – and by this I stand –
perhaps on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.
A Thursday it will be, because today, a Thursday
spent belaboring these verses, I’ve worn my arm bones
with ill humor, and never as today have I,
in all my journeys, found myself alone once more.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him
without him doing anything to them;
they struck him hard with a club, and hard too
with a rope; these bear witness:
all Thursdays and arm bones,
loneliness, rain, journeys…

Black Stone Lying On A White Stone

  by César Vallejo
translated by Robert Bly 
   I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris--and I don't step aside--
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.

   It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on 
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.

   César Vallejo is dead.  Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also

   with a rope.  These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads. . .


TC said...

Swell post, Nin. As Robert Bly's poetics are based on a "childlike" (faux) simplicity, I don't suppose it would matter much exactly what the originals say.

This is such a great poem, no translation can really do it justice. But my favourite is Thomas Merton's version:

Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca (Black stone on top of a white stone)

Nin Andrews said...

Oh, that is lovely! THANKS SO MUCH!