Saturday, July 7, 2007

Songs from the Quechua

I discovered Songs of the Quechua quite by accident. I was in search of English translations of Carlos Drummond de Andrade, which are close to being nonexistent, and I came across a lovely collection called Looking for Poetry: Poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Rafael Alberti with Songs from the Quechua that was translated by Mark Strand. After pouring over the first section for the better part of an afternoon, I started leafing through the remainder, and thank goodness! I'm sure I'll get to Rafael Alberti later on, but the Quechua section is astounding. Many of the works are structured as songs, and they resonate with a complex simlicity that can only be understood by reading them. So, of course, here are a few:


I wanted a llama
with a golden coat
bright as the sun,
strong as love,
soft as clouds
unravelled by dawn,
in order to make
a knotted rope
for keeping track
of moons that pass,
of flowers that die.

When You Find Yourself Alone

When you find yourself alone
on the island in the river,
your father won't be there
to call you:
Alau, my daughter!
your mother won't be able
to reach you:
Alau, my daughter!

Only the royal duck
will walk around
with rain in its eyes,
with tears of blood;
rain in its eyes,
tears of blood.

And even the royal duck
will leave you
when the waves of the river
rise up,
when the waves of the river
fall down.

But then I shall serenade you,
"Out on the island, out in the storm,
I'll snatch her young heart,
snatch her young heart,
and carry it off."

In the Morning

In the morning
drops of water
on the flowers
are tears the moon
cries all night.

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