"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday

One of the things I love most about poets is their ability to see the beauty in what seems to be the most mundane things. A great poet can make a pile of trash seem fascinating and beautiful just by the way they arrange simple words and rhythm.

Pablo Neruda was a master at this. His gorgeous poem Oda a la cebolla/Ode to an Onion is one of the most beautiful poems in both English and the original Spanish. He makes an onion seem like the most glorious of jewels.

The round up is here.

Oda a la cebolla

luminosa redoma,
pétalo a pétalo
se formó tu hermosura,
escamas de crystal te acrecentaron
y en el secreto de la tierra oscura
se redondeó tu vientre de rocío.
Bajo la tierra
fue el milagro
y cuando apareció
tu torpe tallo verde,
y nacieron
tus hojas como espadas en el huerto,
la tierra acumuló su poderío
mostrando tu desnuda transparencia,
y como en Afrodita el mar remoto
duplicó la magnolia
levantando sus senos,
la tierra
así te hizo,
clara como un planeta,
y destinada ,
a relucir ,
constelación constante,
redonda rosa de agua,
la mesa
de las pobres gentes.

Nos hiciste llorar sin afligirnos.
Yo cuanto existe celebré, cebolla,
pero para mi eres
más hermosa que un ave
de plumas cegadoras
eres para mis ojos
globo celeste, copa de platino,
baile inmóvil
de anémona nevada

y vive la fragancia de la tierra
en tu naturaleza cristalina.

Ode to the Onion

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

translation by Stephen Mitchell

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a beautiful idea and both AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos want to be part of it! Head on over to 7 for a look. More on that later.


Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Neruda is one of my favorite poets, and his odes to common things like onions, french fries and boxes of tea make me kvell. Stephen Mitchell himself is no slouch at revealing the beauty of Neruda's poems that I can feel in the Spanish without necessarily understanding the words. I feel the same way about Rilke.

Sara said...

There is nothing that Neruda can't do. He worships the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. I wish I were more fluent in Spanish, but the translation is lovely.

cloudscome said...

Yesterday I found an Ode to Socks by Neruda that I had copied out by hand and stuck in a knitting book on my bookshelf. I have forgotten where I first found it. Today I read his Ode to an Onion on your blog - hurrah! Thank you!