Pablo Neruda – Body of a Woman

Spanish Love Poems: Spanish Love Poems: Pablo Neruda – Body of a Woman.

Corpo de Mujer

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,
te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.
Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los pájaros
y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.
Para sobrevivirme te forjé como un arma,
como una flecha en mi arco, como una piedra en mi honda.

Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.
Ah los vasos del pecho! Ah los ojos de ausencia!
Ah las rosas del pubis! Ah tu voz lenta y triste!

Cuerpo de mujer mía, persistiré en tu gracia.
Mi sed, mi ansia sin límite, mi camino indeciso!
Oscuros cauces donde la sed eterna sigue,
y la fatiga sigue, y el dolor infinito.

——————————————— WORK ON TRANSLATION———————————-

  • 1st stanza

The first line is easy; just note that it is about “a woman”, or “women in general”. The second line is tricky.  First the verb parecir worries people because it has some reflexive quality in it; but you would never say “you look yourself” in English. It’s technically what Linguists call a “middle” – not reflexive, not intransitive.  Anyway, it’s either “look like” or “seem.”  Then, it’s just a choice of nuance – “look like” is common, “seem” would give it a slightly dreamlike feel. Finally, it’s “al mundo” which is the contraction for “a el mundo”, which must be the definite article (a disagree with translations that use “a world”.

“en tu actitud de entrega” presents another problem: while you might think a literal translation is the way to go, you have to be careful of a possible “colloquialism” hidden in this phrases – the kind of phrase that is almost an idiom, because it is used exactly the same way every time.  First of all “actitude” would be better as “postion” or “pose”, but never “attitude”.  It’s one of those “false cognates” in Spanish-to-English.  While “submissive pose” sounds possible, “entrega” really has “surrender” locked into it – you have to hand something over. In the third line, it’s just one of those historical things: we just don’t have rural laborers in any real sense now; so, “peasant”? Now way.  There haven’t been true peasants for 1000 years.  He’s talking about digging so I could go with “farmhand” . “Savage” is just too dime-store for me, like “savage love”.  I think “brutal”, related to “brute”, which has the feeling of stupid.  The hardest one is “socavar” – really means to “excavate”.  Not just digging, but digging under.  What’s worse is that it often is used figuratively to mean undermine”.  I can’t imagine that Neruda doesn’t want the connection between “entrega” and “socavar” to have some macho connotation. The last line of the stanza only makes sense if you realize – which I think NO translator on earth has yet realized! – that this poem is about a pregnancy woman.  I mean, doesn’t that fit well with “you look like a world”?  Like “the world”.  And then later, he talks about breasts filled with milk.  So, she is pregnant, and he assumes it is a son.  So, even though “saltar” means to jump, what do Spanish speakers say when the baby move in the womb?  In English, we say (without thinking about it), the baby is “kicking”.

  • 2nd stanza
  • 3rd stanza

———————————–MY TRANSLATION —————————————————-

Body of a Woman

Body of woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look  like the world , when you lie in surrender.
My farmhand’s body roots around in you brutishly
and makes our son kick from the center of the earth.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me
and the night enveloped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive  I forged  you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, like a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Ah those goblets of the chest! Ah those eyes of absence!
Ah the roses of the pubis! Ah your voice slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my unbounded desire, my uncertain road!
The dark river-beds that the eternal thirst follows,
that the weariness  follows, and the infinite ache.

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