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