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Any System

by Leonard Cohen

Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down
We warned you before
and nothing that you built has stood
Hear it as you lean over you blueprint
Hear it as you roll up your sleeve
Hear it once again
Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down

You have your drugs
You have your guns
You have your Pyramids you Pentagons
With all your grass and bullets
you cannot hunt us any more
All that we disclose of ourselves forever
is this warning
Nothing that you built has stood
Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down.

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_________

Te dehojé, como una rosa,
para verte tu alma,
y no la vi.

Mas todo en torno
– horizontes de tierras y de mares –,
todo, hasta el infinito,
se colmó de una esencia
inmensa y viva.

– Juan Ramon Jiminez

_____________

I took off petal after petal, as if you were a rose,
in order to see your soul,
and I didn’t see it.

However, everything around –
horizons of fields and oceans –
everything, even what was infinite,
was filled with a perfume,
immense and living.

– Translation by Robert Bly

______________

My own attempt at translation:

I stripped you,
like I would strip a rose of its leaves,
in order to see your soul

And I did not see it. But everything around –
horizons of earth and of ocean – everything, out to infinity
was filled with your perfume
immense and alive.

Mine is a less beautiful way. But I really think there is something specific in the choice of “dehoje” in the first bit. The word is literally ‘to de-leaf,’ maybe best translated as “defoliate.” This seems a very specific choice – the poet is not saying he tore away the PETALS of the rose, but its LEAVES. I like the idea that a rose’s soul is found not in the heart of the flower, but under its leaves….this implies that the soul of the rose is the thorn….That said, I adore the translation on “esencia” as “perfume.” Gorgeous, gorgeous – it could have been “essence,” which is much more abstract and less haunting than perfume.

____________

Poetry by Juan Ramon Jiminez.
Translation by Robert Bly.
Kindly made public by As It Ought to Be.

http://asitoughttobe.com/2010/03/13/saturday-poetry-series-presents-juan-ramo…

Photo by Kyle Griffith, 2001. Accessed through the Cities and Buildings Database of the University of Washington Digital Collection.

http://128.95.104.14/buildingsweb/index.html

Few voices go deeper into my core than Carl Sandburg’s. I think that few voices went deeper into Carl Sandburg than that of Abraham Lincoln. So let the words, then, be magnified, prismatic, by the generations who have attended upon them and been moved.

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Thinking today about Lorca’s empty grave.

“I understood they had assasinated me.
They scoured the cafés and the graveyards and the churches,
they opened the casks and the closets,
they destroyed three skeletons to pull out their gold teeth.
They still didn’t find me.
They didn’t find me?
No, they didn’t find me.”

 

Here is a song to listen to while thinking about Lorca’s empty grave:
http://www.pogues.com/Releases/Lyrics/LPs/HellsDitch/Lorca.html

 

 

(Translations mine from the Spanish text of the bilingual edition: Lorca, Frederico Garcia. “Death Mask” and “Fable and Round of the Three Friends,” in Poeta en Nueva York. Translated by Pablo Medina, Mark Statman, and los Herederos de Frederico Garcia Lorca. New York: Grove Press, 2008.)

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