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Unread 12-29-2021, 11:30 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Default Lope de Vega, "To a comb"

Lope de Vega (Spain, 1562-1635)

VERSE TRANSLATION -- DRAFT FOUR (tweak in purple)

To a comb that the poet couldn’t tell whether it was of boxwood or of ivory

Plow the sea of love’s blond waves, and ride
among those pretty tangles proudly, O
ship from Barcelona, even though
you sometimes show yourself and sometimes hide.

Now Cupid crafts no arrows anymore—
just golden waves within her splendid hair.
Don't use your teeth to yank him out of there,
and you'll have lots of happiness in store.


Tease loose those loops with slow propriety;
set parallels descending from my sun,
you boxwood, or you Moorish ivory.

Then fan them out, and once their spreading's done,
form paths of gold among those locks, now free,
before time turns them silver, one by one.


VERSE TRANSLATION -- DRAFT THREE (Tweaks in pink and green, changes from Draft Two in brown)

To a comb that the poet couldn’t tell whether it was of boxwood or of ivory

Plow the sea of love’s blond waves, and ride
among those pretty tangles proudly, O
ship from Barcelona, even though
you sometimes show yourself and sometimes hide.

Now Cupid crafts no arrows anymore
just golden waves within her splendid hair.
You, with your teeth, don't
snatch him out of there,
if you would keep a happy fate in store.


Tease loose those loops with slow propriety;
set parallels descending from my sun,
you boxwood, or you Moorish ivory
.

Then fan them out, and once their spreading's done,
form paths of gold among those locks, now free,
before time turns them silver, one by one.



Q1 was:
Plow the sea of Love’s blond billows, riding
those pretty tangles elegantly, O
ship from Barcelona, even though
you’re sometimes showing through them, sometimes hiding.
L2 was:
atop those pretty tangles proudly, O

LL5-7 were:
Love doesn't fashion arrows anymore
just golden billows in her splendid hair.
You, with your teeth, don't take him out of there,


LL9-10 were:
Untie those knots, but with propriety;
let parallels fall loosely from my sun,
you boxwood, or
exotic ivory.

Before that, L10 was:
let rays fall, parallel, beneath my sun,


VERSE TRANSLATION -- DRAFT TWO (Changes from Draft One in orange)

To a comb that the poet couldn’t tell whether it was of boxwood or of ivory

Ply the sea of Love’s blond billows, riding
high amid those pretty tangles, O
ship from Barcelona, even though
you’re sometimes on display and sometimes hiding.

Love wraps no arrow-fletchings now; he’s winding
gold spirals in her hair’s resplendent flow.
Your teeth should not just yank them, if you're so
inclined to keep that mighty fortune's minding.

Unhurriedly, unknot unruly locks
and put my sun’s rays parallel and straight,
you tusk of Moorish elephant, or box;

and while you dally, spreading them, create
throughout her mane gold paths, made orthodox
before time turns them into silverplate.


Yeah, I know, "silverplate" is an anachronism. And probably not the right word, anyway. Revising....


DRAFT 1 OCTAVE:

Plow the sea of Love’s blond billows, riding
through those pretty tangles proudly, O
ship from Barcelona, even though
you’re sometimes visible and sometimes hiding.

Love wraps no arrow-fletchings now; he’s winding
gold ringlets in her hair’s resplendent flow.
Don’t snatch those from her with your teeth, if so
much joy you’d like to have the job of minding.


SPANISH ORIGINAL (with some spelling variants)                    LITERAL ENGLISH PROSE CRIB

A un peyne que no sabía el poeta                    To a comb that the poet didn’t know
si era de boj, o de marfil                              whether it was of boxwood or of ivory


Súlca Sulca del mar de Amor las rubias ondas,          Plow the sea of Love’s blond waves,
barco de Barcelona, y por los bellos                    ship from Barcelona, and through the beautiful
lazos navega altivo, aunque por ellos                    tangles sail, elevated, although through them
tal vez te muestres y tal vez te escondas.          you sometimes are shown and sometimes are hidden.

Ya no flechas Amor, doradas ondas                    Now Love (does) not (weave, twist, spin, wind) arrows, (but) golden waves
teje de sus espléndidos cabellos;                    (he) weaves/twists from her splendid tresses;
tú con los dientes no le quites dellos                    you, with your teeth, do not rob/rid her of remove him from them)
para que a tanta dicha correspondas.                    so that you may belong to/pertain to such great happiness/fortune.

Desenvuelve los rizos con decoro,                    Disentangle the knots with decorum,
los paralelos de mi sol desata,                    untie/set loose the parallels (beams) of my sun,
boj o colmillo de elefante moro;                    boxwood or tusk of a Moorish elephant;

y en tanto que esparcidos los dilata,                    and while as soon as they are scattered, spread them out,
forma por la madeja sendas de oro                    form through her mane paths of gold
antes que el tiempo los convierta en plata.                    before time turns them into silver.


I think this video conveys the general idea of the “spinning/twisting/weaving/fashioning arrows” bit, although Europeans used spirals of silk or flax thread (not sinew) to attach goose (not turkey) feathers to the shafts of arrows:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y_tbjwwlvA&t=790s

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-04-2022 at 12:16 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 12-30-2021, 07:57 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, for me, the main problems are in the sestet. "Box" to a contemporary reader will not suggest "boxwood" unless perhaps you wrote "wood of box." And "orthodox" seems too religious for the context. "Silverplate" has overtones of fraudulently trying to appear real silver. I understand why you do not wish to rhyme on "silver," but perhaps you can find different rhymes. Are you tied to reproducing the rhyme scheme exactly, or would one of the other Petrarchan options for the sestet work for you?

Susan
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  #3  
Unread 12-30-2021, 08:00 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Julie, I’m unsure quite how to respond. So much seems correct, even very good in the verbal aspect of your translation. The rhythm is fine, the meanings are accurate, the rhymes work. So what bothers me is that for me it’s rather hard to read aloud or silently because there are so many muscular activities demanded by the consonants in the syllables that it seems overly baroque, rococo, and less attractive than you or the poet want. My lips get tired. I honestly don’t know how to change that. Maybe others don’t have this problem. It’s a nice poem, though the comb as a ship stopped me for a moment.
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Unread 12-30-2021, 09:12 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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Alan, I think the baroqueness is the point. Lope was making fun of the over-the-top ornate style of Gongora and his imitators. The intended humor is apparent, I think, when it comes to subject matter, since poems to combs were not exactly a standard part of the poet's repertoire back then (or ever), and when you combine the pedestrian subject matter with the recoco style, those who knew Gongora (every reader back then) indeed found it humorous.

Julie, I'm not ready to comment fully yet, but I'm curious why there's an accent mark over "sulca". Various versions online have the accent, and various don't, but I can't see any reason for it. Just curious.

Interesting that L1 and L5 end with the same word, something you therefore can do if you're running out of rhymes. Also, I think L2 and L6 are an identity as well.
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Unread 12-30-2021, 09:53 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks for your helpful responses, Susan, Allen, and Roger. I've posted some tweaks to the octave above, although I agree with Susan that the sestet is what really needs rethinking.

Allen, I think Roger is right that Lope is probably making this ridiculously convoluted to lampoon some of his rivals (especially Góngora, whose motto seems to have been "If there's a harder way to say it, I'll find it"), so I probably need a note to initiate the casual reader into the joke. But the whole thing isn't over-the-top Gongorism--the vocabulary is fairly straightforward, and the sestet (as Susan pointed out) is more graceful than my translation has made it. I'll give it another go soon.

Roger, the identity rhymes in the first two lines of the quatrains seem particularly in-your-face. I think Lope is probably making fun of the French-influenced identity rhymes that some Spanish poets were experimenting with at the time. In French, though, identity rhymes have to use different parts of speech. The first lines of both quatrains here are using "ondas" as "waves or ripples," though the adjective "deep" was theoretically another possibility.

I'm not sure, but I think the accent on the first syllable of "sulca" could be to avoid the pronunciation of a second person singular imperative with an accent written on the last syllable--although that form goes with the confusing (to me) singular "vos" rather than the singular "tú," and Lope is using "tú" throughout--so again, I don't know. Scroll down to the "imperative" section of the conjugation here to see the "tú" and "vos" options (using the more common spelling "surca"). Generally now an accent on the first syllable only gets written in when there are pronouns attached to the end of the imperative that might change the default stressed syllable. I'm not married to keeping it.

I think I might make more of the fact that Lope seems to be talking about actual snarls in the beloved's hair, rather than ringlets or curls (which might be viewed more favorably).

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-30-2021 at 10:11 AM.
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Unread 12-30-2021, 09:58 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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Well, the accent mark isn't an issue for the translation. But I still don't think you need an accent mark to keep the stress on the penultimate syllable. The only reason for an accent mark as I understand the rule (and my understanding may well be limited) is to shift the stress from the penultimate syllable, or to distinguish different uses (e.g., mas vs más, or que vs qué).
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Unread 12-30-2021, 12:04 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks for your thoughts on that, Roger.

Here's another English translation, included in Robert Southey's review of Lope de Vega, and thus probably his. I note that he's taking the "le" in L7 as referring to Love, as if the comb might remove the snarl-making Love from her tresses, like a louse or flea. I hadn't considered that, but I'll think about it some more.

He seems to have taken "rubia" as related to the plant of that name ("madder" in English), whose root yields a red dye. But the more common use is simply as an adjective for blond hair.

Anyway:

TO A COMB, THE POET NOT KNOWING WHETHER IT
WAS OF BOX OR IVORY.

Sail through the red waves of the sea of love,
O, bark of Barcelona, and between
The billows of those ringlets proudly move,
And now be hidden there, and now be seen!

What golden surges, Love, who lurks beneath,
Weaves with the windings of that splendid hair!
Be grateful for thy bliss, and leave him there,
In joyance unmolested by thy teeth.

O tusk of elephant, or limb of box,
Gently unravel thou her tangled locks,
Gently the windings of those curls unfold,

Like the sun's rays, in parallels arrange them,
And through the labyrinth shape thy paths of gold,
Ere yet to silver envious time shall change them.


By the way, this poem was one of the ones Lope de Vega published under the pseudonym Tomé de Burguillos. A little commentary on that by Lindsay G. Kerr:

Quote:
In 1634, the year before his death, Lope de Vega published an anthology of poetry in the parodic mode, comprising 161 sonnets, 11 rimas sacras, various espinelas and canciones and the seven-silva, feline mock epic La Gatomaquia: the Rimas humanas y divinas del licenciado Tomé de Burguillos. The pseudonym was not a new creation, and the true author of the text was a thinly veiled secret, which raises some interesting questions about authorial intent and subsequent textual interpretations. Why would a poet like Lope de Vega, who sought to be taken seriously as the principal lyric poet of his age, and to reach the pinnacle of Parnassus during his poetic career, turn to parody towards the end of his life? Is it the culminating step in a parodic trajectory as it appears to be in Góngora, or does it carry out some other function?
https://www.cambridge.org/core/books...EE6B42110C34FB

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-30-2021 at 12:13 PM.
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Unread 12-30-2021, 04:27 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Steiner View Post
I note that he's taking the "le" in L7 as referring to Love, as if the comb might remove the snarl-making Love from her tresses, like a louse or flea.
I think he's right. If he were referring to a "her," wouldn't the pronoun be "la"? (Correct me if I'm wrong since my grammar is rusty).

Ya no flechas Amor, doradas ondas
teje de sus espléndidos cabellos;
tú con los dientes no le quites dellos
para que a tanta dicha correspondas.


I think, though I'm not certain, that "ya no flechas Amor" means "you [ship of Barcelona, aka "comb"] do not wound Love with an arrow (like Cupid) but you weave golden waves from splendid hair." Also, the only tense I can think of to make "teje" make sense is the imperative (like quites). The poet is ordering the comb/ship to weave golden waves from her (I presume it's a her) splendid head of hair.

(I haven't thought enough about the rest of the poem to comment further at the moment).
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Unread 12-31-2021, 09:44 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Roger, the indirect object pronoun "le" can be either masculine or feminine. The direct object pronouns "lo" and "la" must be one or the other.

Word order isn't much help in distinguishing subjects and objects in this style of Spanish poetry. If Lope de Vega is making fun of Góngora's convoluted syntax, using anastrophe and hyperbaton are obvious ways to do that.

I'm still inclined to think that Amor/Love is the subject of the sentence in LL5-6, since that way, fewer tweaks would be needed to put the sentence closer to the expected Spanish word order:

     adverb adverb direct object subject, (implied conjunction) adjective + direct object
          Ya no flechas Amor, (mas) doradas ondas
     3rd person singular indicative verb prepositional phrase
          teje de sus espléndidos cabellos;

That might be re-arranged as:

          Ya no flechas, (mas) doradas ondas
          teje Amor de sus espléndidos cabellos;

In English, that might be:

          No longer (golden) arrows, (but) golden waves,
          (does) Love weave/craft from his/her splendid tresses;

Note: Since Love is been personified in this poem, while the owner of the hair never is, the "sus" might more logically, based just on grammar, refer to Love's own splendid hair, rather than to the beloved's. And the indirect/personal object "le" in L7 might also refer to Love, rather than the beloved, as well. But I don't know of any myth about Cupid's golden arrows being made out of his own hair.

Roger, here's how I would parse your alternative reading, with an implied as the subject:

     adverb adverb 2nd person singular indicative verb direct object of verb "flechas", (implied conjunction) adjective + direct object of verb "teje"
          Ya no flechas Amor, (mas) doradas ondas
     2nd person singular imperative verb prepositional phrase
          teje de sus espléndidos cabellos;

Which might be Englished as:

     No longer do (you) arrow-injure Love--weave/craft golden waves from his/her splendid tresses (instead);

Aside from the fact that I can't imagine a comb hurting Love with arrows, I can't see why the indicative would be used for the first verb, and the imperative for the second--especially since changing the indicative "flechas" to the negative command form ("fleches") would only be a change of one letter. So I really think "flechas" is supposed to be understood as a plural noun, in parallel with "doradas ondas."

Gotta do stuff now, so I can't parse LL7-8, but I'll post this much now. Thanks for helping me think it through.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-31-2021 at 10:08 AM.
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Unread 12-31-2021, 10:44 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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If "teje" is a verb, what is the subject of that verb? It would have to be third-person singular or imperative, and I don't see any singular nouns that it could be attached to which is why I suggested the imperative. Perhaps "teje" had a meaning back then more like "tejido"?

I have a feeling that even if I were a native Spanish speaker I wouldn't be able to understand this poem. There are certainly poems in English that I can't entirely parse. And in this case, since he's making fun of Gongora, it might be purposely unintelligible to a certain extent, so trying to make the translation entirely intelligible may be the wrong way to go. What matters, I would say, is that you sling the double-talk in a convoluted way.
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