Updates, Live

Saturday, August 02, 2014

A Bit about the Coplas of Jorge Manrique

Portrait of Jorge Manrique
no copyright infringement intended

Cómo se pasa la vida,
Cómo se viene la muerte
Tan callando,
Cuán presto se va el placer,
Cómo, después de acordado,
Da dolor;
Cómo, a nuestro parecer,
Cualquiera tiempo pasado
Fue mejor

I visited today the English Bookshop in Bucharest, and as I was browsing a book that I was interested in, I came upon these lines of Spanish poetry. The book was in English and on the first page it quoted these verses, keeping them in the original tongue.

The book (Hotel Florida, Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, written by Amanda Vaill) was digging in the history of a major event of the 20th century. The verses were coming from a poem that had been written in the 15th century. At first view no connection of any sort between book and verses. Still there was something: both were tackling the topics of life and death, and their intricate meddling with truth and illusion, love and lust, good faith and ambition, and all that belongs to human condition. The connection was to be found in the universal, not in the particular.

The author of the verses was Jorge Manrique. They were taken from his most famous poem, Coplas por la morte de su padre.

Back home I discovered for them a fine English rendering:

How lightly life away is taken,
How cometh Death in stealthy guise,—
At last beholding;
What swiftness hath the flight of pleasure
That, once attained, seems nothing more
Than respite cold;
How fain is memory to measure
Each latter day inferior
To those of old.

You can read the poem on the web (http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/poesia/coplaspo.htm). Here are a few more lines, taken at random:

Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
allí van los señoríos
derechos a se acabar
y consumir;

[Our lives are fated as the rivers
That gather downward to the sea
We know as Death;
And thither every flood delivers
The pride and pomp of seigniory
That forfeiteth;


Este mundo es el camino
para el otro, que es morada
sin pesar;

[This world is but a highway going
Unto that other, the abode
Without a sorrow;

(Jorge Manrique)

(Amanda Vaill)

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home